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Replication-Competent Influenza Virus and Respiratory Syncytial Virus Luciferase Reporter Strains Engineered for Co-Infections Identify Antiviral Compounds in Combination Screens

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journal contribution
posted on 15.09.2015, 00:00 by Dan Yan, Marco Weisshaar, Kristen Lamb, Hokyung K. Chung, Michael Z. Lin, Richard K. Plemper
Myxoviruses such as influenza A virus (IAV) and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are major human pathogens, mandating the development of novel therapeutics. To establish a high-throughput screening protocol for the simultaneous identification of pathogen- and host-targeted hit candidates against either pathogen or both, we have attempted co-infection of cells with IAV and RSV. However, viral replication kinetics were incompatible, RSV signal window was low, and an IAV-driven minireplicon reporter assay used in initial screens narrowed the host cell range and restricted the assay to single-cycle infections. To overcome these limitations, we developed an RSV strain carrying firefly luciferase fused to an innovative universal small-molecule assisted shut-off domain, which boosted assay signal window, and a hyperactive fusion protein that synchronized IAV and RSV reporter expression kinetics and suppressed the identification of RSV entry inhibitors sensitive to a recently reported RSV pan-resistance mechanism. Combined with a replication-competent recombinant IAV strain harboring nanoluciferase, the assay performed well on a human respiratory cell line and supports multicycle infections. Miniaturized to 384-well format, the protocol was validated through screening of a set of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Collection (NCC) in quadruplicate. These test screens demonstrated favorable assay parameters and reproducibility. Application to a LOPAC library of bioactive compounds in a proof-of-concept campaign detected licensed antimyxovirus therapeutics, ribavirin and the neuraminidase inhibitor zanamivir, and identified two unexpected RSV-specific hit candidates, Fenretinide and the opioid receptor antagonist BNTX-7. Hits were evaluated in direct and orthogonal dose–response counterscreens using a standard recRSV reporter strain expressing Renilla luciferase.