Broad Spectrum Anti-Influenza Agents by Inhibiting Self-Association of Matrix Protein 1

Mosier PD, Chiang MJ, Lin Z, Gao Y, Althufairi B, Zhou Q, Musayev F, Safo MK, Xie H, Desai UR. Sci Rep. 2016 Aug 30;6:32340. doi: 10.1038/srep32340. PMID: 27573445

The matrix protein 1 (M1) of influenza A virus (IAV) exists as a three-dimensional oligomeric structure in mature virions with high sequence conservation across different IAV subtypes, which makes it a potential broad spectrum antiviral target. We hypothesized that impairing self-association of M1 through a small molecule ‘wedge’, which avidly binds to an M1-M1 interface, would result in a completely new class of anti-influenza agents. To establish this proof-of-principle, we performed virtual screening on a library of >70,000 commercially available small molecules that resulted in several plausible ‘wedges’. Biophysical studies showed that the best molecule bound the M1 protein potently and weakened M1-M1 self-association. Most importantly, the agent reduced the thickness of the M1 layer in mature virions and inhibited in ovo propagation of multiple IAV strains including H1N1, pandemic H1N1, H3N2 and H5N1, which supports the “wedge” hypothesis. These results demonstrate that M1 is a promising druggable target for the discovery of a completely new line of broad spectrum anti-IAV agents.