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We identify the prolyl-tRNA synthetase (PRS) inhibitor halofuginone 1 , a compound in clinical trials for anti-fibrotic and anti-inflammatory applications 2 , as a potent inhibitor of SARS-CoV-2 infection and replication. The interaction of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein with cell surface heparan sulfate (HS) promotes viral entry 3 . We find that halofuginone reduces HS biosynthesis, thereby reducing spike protein binding, SARS-CoV-2 pseudotyped virus, and authentic SARS-CoV-2 infection. Halofuginone also potently suppresses SARS-CoV-2 replication post-entry and is 1,000-fold more potent than Remdesivir 4 . Inhibition of HS biosynthesis and SARS-CoV-2 infection depends on specific inhibition of PRS, possibly due to translational suppression of proline-rich proteins. We find that pp1a and pp1ab polyproteins of SARS-CoV-2, as well as several HS proteoglycans, are proline-rich, which may make them particularly vulnerable to halofuginone's translational suppression. Halofuginone is orally bioavailable, has been evaluated in a phase I clinical trial in humans and distributes to SARS-CoV-2 target organs, including the lung, making it a near-term clinical trial candidate for the treatment of COVID-19.

Original publication

DOI

10.1101/2021.03.22.436522

Type

Journal article

Journal

bioRxiv

Publication Date

26/03/2021