Identification and evaluation of a highly effective fusion inhibitor for human metapneumovirus

Céline Deffrasnes, Marie Ève Hamelin, Gregory A. Prince, Guy Boivin

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Human metapneumovirus (hMPV) can cause acute upper and lower respiratory tract infections that are particularly severe in young children, elderly subjects, and immunocompromised patients. To date, no treatments or vaccines are available for hMPV infections. Our objective was to assess the inhibitory potential of several peptides derived from the heptad repeat A and B (HRA and HRB) domains of the hMPV fusion protein. Nine candidate peptides were expressed in Escherichia coli or obtained synthetically and tested in vitro and in an animal model. Excellent in vitro inhibition of an hMPV strain of the A1 subgroup was obtained with five peptides, with 50% inhibitory concentrations ranging from 1.4 nM to 3.3 μM. One peptide, HRA2, displayed very potent activity against all four hMPV subgroups. It was also moderately active against human respiratory syncytial virus (strain A2) but displayed no activity against human parainfluenza virus type 3. BALB/c mice that received the HRA2 peptide and a lethal hMPV intranasal challenge simultaneously were completely protected from clinical symptoms and mortality. On day 5 postinfection, HRA2-treated mice had undetectable lung viral loads which were significantly less than those of untreated mice (3 × 104 50% tissue culture infective doses/lung). Pulmonary inflammation, levels of proinflammatory cytokines/chemokines (RANTES, gamma interferon, and monocyte chemoattractant protein 1) and airway obstruction were also significantly decreased in HRA2-treated mice. The results of this study demonstrate that potent antivirals can be derived from the hMPV fusion protein HR domains. Moreover, hMPV, compared to other paramyxoviruses and to the human immunodeficiency virus, seems to be more susceptible to HRA- than HRB-derived peptides.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)279-287
Number of pages9
JournalAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2008
Externally publishedYes

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