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Mycophenolic acid inhibits dengue virus infection by preventing replication of viral RNA.

Abstract

Dengue fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease of global importance with no available antiviral therapy. We assessed the ability of mycophenolic acid (MPA), a drug currently used as an immunosuppressive agent, to inhibit dengue virus (DV) antigen expression, RNA replication, and virus production. Pharmacological concentrations of MPA effectively blocked DV infection, decreasing the percentage of infected cells by 99% and the levels of secreted virus by up to a millionfold. Results were reproduced with four hepatoma cell lines and different flaviviruses, including a recent West Nile virus isolate. Experiments were performed to define the stage in the viral lifecycle at which MPA abrogates infection. Early steps in viral infection, such as viral entry and nucleocapsid uncoating, were not the primary targets of MPA action since its inhibitory effect was retained when naked DV RNA was transfected directly into cells. Biosynthetic labeling experiments showed that MPA did not block the initial phase of viral translation but did interfere with viral protein synthesis in the amplification phase. Quantitative RT-PCR demonstrated that MPA prevented the accumulation of viral positive- and negative-strand RNA as the infection proceeded. We conclude that MPA inhibits flavivirus infection by preventing synthesis and accumulation of viral RNA.

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