Enhancing the antiviral potency of nucleobases for potential broad-spectrum antiviral therapies

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Broad-spectrum antiviral therapies hold promise as a first-line defense against emerging viruses by blunting illness severity and spread until vaccines and virus-specific antivirals are developed. The nucleobase favipiravir, often discussed as a broad-spectrum inhibitor, was not effective in recent clinical trials involving patients infected with Ebola virus or SARS-CoV-2. A drawback of favipiravir use is its rapid clearance before conversion to its active nucleoside-5-triphosphate form. In this work, we report a synergistic reduction of flavivirus (dengue, Zika), orthomyxovirus (influenza A), and coronavirus (HCoV-OC43 and SARS-CoV-2) replication when the nucleobases favipiravir or T-1105 were combined with the antimetabolite 6-methylmercaptopurine riboside (6MMPr). The 6MMPr/T-1105 combination increased the C-U and G-A mutation frequency compared to treatment with T-1105 or 6MMPr alone. A further analysis revealed that the 6MMPr/T-1105 co-treatment reduced cellular purine nucleotide triphosphate synthesis and increased conversion of the antiviral nucleobase to its nucleoside-5-monophosphate,-diphosphate, and-triphosphate forms. The 6MMPr co-treatment specifically increased production of the active antiviral form of the nucleobases (but not corresponding nucleosides) while also reducing levels of competing cellular NTPs to produce the synergistic effect. This in-depth work establishes a foundation for development of small molecules as possible co-treatments with nucleobases like favipiravir in response to emerging RNA virus infections.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number2508
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank Paul D. Robbins and Fernando Santiago (University of MN) for the Cytation One imaging system use. We thank the UMN BSL-3 Program including Thien Sam, JordanMerhar, and Erica Nystrom for their assistance. The following reagent was deposited by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and obtained through BEI Resources, NIAID, NIH: SARS-Related Coronavirus 2, Isolate USA-WA1/2020, NR-52281. We thank the Center for Drug Design for the support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (https:// creativecommons.org/licenses/by/ 4.0/).


  • Antimetabolite
  • Antiviral
  • Broad-spectrum
  • Emerging viruses
  • Favipiravir
  • Nucleobase
  • Synergy


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