RK-33 Is a Broad-Spectrum Antiviral Agent That Targets DEAD-Box RNA Helicase DDX3X

Sundy N. Y. Yang, Sarah C. Atkinson, Michelle D. Audsley, Steven M. Heaton, David A. Jans, Natalie A. Borg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Viral disease is one of the greatest burdens for human health worldwide, with an urgent need for efficacious antiviral strategies. While antiviral drugs are available, in many cases, they are prone to the development of drug resistance. A way to overcome drug resistance associated with common antiviral therapies is to develop antivirals targeting host cellular co-factors critical to viral replication, such as DEAD-box helicase 3 X-linked (DDX3X), which plays key roles in RNA metabolism and the antiviral response. Here, we use biochemical/biophysical approaches and infectious assays to show for the first time that the small molecule RK-33 has broad-spectrum antiviral action by inhibiting the enzymatic activities of DDX3X. Importantly, we show that RK-33 is efficacious at low micromolar concentrations in limiting infection by human parainfluenza virus type 3 (hPIV-3), respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), dengue virus (DENV), Zika virus (ZIKV) or West Nile virus (WNV)-for all of which, no Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved therapeutic is widely available. These findings establish for the first time that RK-33 is a broad-spectrum antiviral agent that blocks DDX3X's catalytic activities in vitro and limits viral replication in cells.

Original languageEnglish
Article number170
Number of pages13
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2020


  • DDX3X
  • DEAD-box helicase
  • RK-33
  • small molecule inhibitor
  • viral infection

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