2020 Volume 45 Issue 2 Pages 155-163
The smallest arenavirus gene product, Z protein, plays critical roles in the virus life cycle. Z is the major driving force of budding and particle production because of a unique property that defines self-assembly. In addition to the roles in budding, Z also participates in the suppression of type I interferon production to evade host antiviral immunity. Therefore, Z and its assembled form are an attractive drug target for arenaviral hemorrhagic fever, such as Lassa fever. Here, we developed a biosensor that enabled the evaluation of the prototype arenavirus, lymphocytic choriomeningitis virus (LCMV), Z assembly using the principle of Förster resonance energy transfer (FRET). This FRET biosensor consisted of three tandem Z that were sandwiched between super-enhanced cyan-emitting fluorescent protein and variant of a yellow-emitting mutant of green fluorescent protein so that Z-Z intermolecular binding via the really interesting new gene finger domain increased the emission ratio. To identify novel anti-arenavirus compounds, the FRET biosensor was employed to screen the PathogenBox400 for inhibitors of Z assembly in a 96-well plate format. The assay performed well, with a Z’-factor of 0.89, and identified two compounds that decreased the emission ratio of the FRET biosensor in a dose-dependent manner. Of them, the compound, 5,6,7,8-tetrahydro-7-(benzyl)-pyrido[4',3':4,5]thieno[2,3-d]pyrimidin-2,4-diamine, was found to significantly inhibit LCMV propagation in infected cells. Thereby, the present study demonstrated that a novel FRET biosensor incorporating Z assembly built on FRET and named Zabton, was a valuable screening tool to identify anti-arenavirus compounds in the context of inhibition of Z assembly.
Key words: Arenavirus, Förster resonance energy transfer, anti-viral drugs, Z protein