There are currently no therapeutics to treat infection with the alphavirus Venezuelan equine encephalitis virus (VEEV), which causes flu-like symptoms leading to neurological symptoms in up to 14% of cases. Large outbreaks of VEEV can result in 10,000 s of human cases and mass equine death. We previously showed that mifepristone (RU486) has anti-VEEV activity (EC 50 = 20 μM) and only limited cytotoxicity (CC 50 > 100 μM), but a limitation in its use is its abortifacient activity resulting from its ability to antagonize the progesterone receptor (PR). Here we generate a suite of new mifepristone analogues with enhanced antiviral properties, succeeding in achieving >11-fold improvement in anti-VEEV activity with no detectable increase in toxicity. Importantly, we were able to derive a lead compound with an EC 50 of 7.2 µM and no detectable PR antagonism activity. Finally, based on our SAR analysis we propose avenues for the further development of these analogues as safe and effective anti-VEEV agents.
- medicinal chemistry
- target validation