Development of a fluorescence based, high-throughput SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro reporter assay.

Published online

Journal Article

In late 2019 a human coronavirus, now known as SARS-CoV-2, emerged, likely from a zoonotic reservoir. This virus causes COVID-19 disease, has infected millions of people, and has led to hundreds of thousands of deaths across the globe. While the best interventions to control and ultimately stop the pandemic are prophylactic vaccines, antiviral therapeutics are important to limit morbidity and mortality in those already infected. At this time, only one FDA approved anti-SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drug, remdesivir, is available and unfortunately, its efficacy appears to be limited. Thus, the identification of new and efficacious antivirals is of highest importance. In order to facilitate rapid drug discovery, flexible, sensitive, and high-throughput screening methods are required. With respect to drug targets, most attention is focused on either the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase or the main viral protease, 3CLpro 3CLpro is an attractive target for antiviral therapeutics as it is essential for processing newly translated viral proteins, and the viral lifecycle cannot be completed without protease activity. In this work, we present a new assay to identify inhibitors of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, 3CLpro Our reporter is based on a GFP-derived protein that only fluoresces after cleavage by 3CLpro This experimentally optimized reporter assay allows for antiviral drug screening in human cell culture at biosafety level-2 (BSL2) with high-throughput compatible protocols. Using this screening approach in combination with existing drug libraries may lead to the rapid identification of novel antivirals to suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication and spread.IMPORTANCE The COVID-19 pandemic has already led to more than 700,000 deaths and innumerable changes to daily life worldwide. Along with development of a vaccine, identification of effective antivirals to treat infected patients is of the highest importance. However, rapid drug discovery requires efficient methods to identify novel compounds that can inhibit the virus. In this work, we present a method for identifying inhibitors of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, 3CLpro This reporter-based assay allows for antiviral drug screening in human cell culture at biosafety level-2 (BSL2) with high-throughput compatible sample processing and analysis. This assay may help identify novel antivirals to control the COVID-19 pandemic.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Froggatt, HM; Heaton, BE; Heaton, NS

Published Date

  • August 25, 2020

Published In

PubMed ID

  • 32843534

Pubmed Central ID

  • 32843534

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1098-5514

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1128/JVI.01265-20


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States