Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 36040168
Link to DOI – 10.1128/spectrum.02989-22
Microbiol Spectr 2022 Oct; 10(5): e0298922
Zika virus (ZIKV) is a mosquito-borne flavivirus that emerged in the Pacific islands in 2007 and spread to the Americas in 2015. The infection remains asymptomatic in most cases but can be associated with severe neurological disorders. Despite massive efforts, no specific drug or vaccine against ZIKV infection is available to date. Claudins are tight-junction proteins that favor the entry of several flaviviruses, including ZIKV. In this study, we identified two peptides derived from the N-terminal sequences of claudin-7 and claudin-1, named CL7.1 and CL1.1, respectively, that inhibited ZIKV infection in a panel of human cell lines. Using cell-to-cell fusion assays, we demonstrated that these peptides blocked the ZIKV E-mediated membrane fusion. A comparison of the antiviral efficacy of CL1.1 and CL7.1 pointed to the importance of the peptide amphipathicity. Electron microscopic analysis revealed that CL1.1 altered the ultrastructure of the viral particles likely by binding the virus lipid envelope. However, amphipathicity could not fully explain the antiviral activity of CL1.1. In silico docking simulations suggested that CL1.1 may also interact with the E protein, near its stem region. Overall, our data suggested that claudin-derived peptides inhibition may be linked to simultaneous interaction with the E protein and the viral lipid envelope. Finally, we found that CL1.1 also blocked infection by yellow fever and Japanese encephalitis viruses but not by HIV-1 or SARS-CoV-2. Our results provide a basis for the future development of therapeutics against a wide range of endemic and emerging flaviviruses. IMPORTANCE Zika virus (ZIKV) is a flavivirus transmitted by mosquito bites that have spread to the Pacific Islands and the Americas over the past decade. The infection remains asymptomatic in most cases but can cause severe neurological disorders. ZIKV is a major public health threat in areas of endemicity, and there is currently no specific antiviral drug or vaccine available. We identified two antiviral peptides deriving from the N-terminal sequences of claudin-7 and claudin-1 with the latter being the most effective. These peptides block the envelope-mediated membrane fusion. Our data suggested that the inhibition was likely achieved by simultaneously interacting with the viral lipid envelope and the E protein. The peptides also inhibited other flaviviruses. These results could provide the basis for the development of therapies that might target a wide array of flaviviruses from current epidemics and possibly future emergences.