• Abelson kinase inhibitors are potent inhibitors of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus fusion

      Coleman, C.M.; Sisk, J.M.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2016)
      The highly pathogenic severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) cause significant morbidity and morality. There is currently no approved therapeutic for highly pathogenic coronaviruses, even as MERS-CoV is spreading throughout the Middle East. We previously screened a library of FDA-approved drugs for inhibitors of coronavirus replication in which we identified Abelson (Abl) kinase inhibitors, including the anticancer drug imatinib, as inhibitors of both SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV in vitro. Here we show that the anti-CoV activity of imatinib occurs at the early stages of infection, after internalization and endosomal trafficking, by inhibiting fusion of the virions at the endosomal membrane. We specifically identified the imatinib target, Abelson tyrosine-protein kinase 2 (Abl2), as required for efficient SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV replication in vitro. These data demonstrate that specific approved drugs can be characterized in vitro for their anticoronavirus activity and used to identify host proteins required for coronavirus replication. This type of study is an important step in the repurposing of approved drugs for treatment of emerging coronaviruses.
    • CD8+ T cells and macrophages regulate pathogenesis in a mouse model of Middle East respiratory syndrome

      Coleman, C.M.; Halasz, G.; Zhong, J.; Beck, S.E.; Matthews, K.L.; Venkataraman, T.; Rajagopalan, S.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2017)
      Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is an important emerging pathogen that was first described in 2012. While the cell surface receptor for MERS-CoV has been identified as dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), the mouse DPP4 homologue does not allow virus entry into cells. Therefore, development of mouse models of MERS-CoV has been hampered by the fact that MERS-CoV does not replicate in commonly available mouse strains. We have previously described a mouse model in which mDPP4 was replaced with hDPP4 such that hDPP4 is expressed under the endogenous mDPP4 promoter. In this study, we used this mouse model to analyze the host response to MERS-CoV infection using immunological assays and transcriptome analysis. Depletion of CD4+ T cells, CD8+ T cells, or macrophages has no effect on MERS-CoV replication in the lungs of infected mice. However, we found that depletion of CD8+ T cells protects and depletion of macrophages exacerbates MERS-CoV-induced pathology and clinical symptoms of disease. Overall, we demonstrate an important role for the inflammatory response in regulating MERS-CoV pathogenesis in vivo.
    • Coronavirus S protein-induced fusion is blocked prior to hemifusion by Abl kinase inhibitors

      Sisk, J.M.; Frieman, M.B.; Machamer, C.E. (Microbiology Society, 2018)
      Enveloped viruses gain entry into host cells by fusing with cellular membranes, a step that is required for virus replication. Coronaviruses, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), fuse at the plasma membrane or use receptor-mediated endocytosis and fuse with endosomes, depending on the cell or tissue type. The virus spike (S) protein mediates fusion with the host cell membrane. We have shown previously that an Abelson (Abl) kinase inhibitor, imatinib, significantly reduces SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV viral titres and prevents endosomal entry by HIV SARS S and MERS S pseudotyped virions. SARSCoV and MERS-CoV are classified as BSL-3 viruses, which makes experimentation into the cellular mechanisms involved in infection more challenging. Here, we use IBV, a BSL-2 virus, as a model for studying the role of Abl kinase activity during coronavirus infection. We found that imatinib and two specific Abl kinase inhibitors, GNF2 and GNF5, reduce IBV titres by blocking the first round of virus infection. Additionally, all three drugs prevented IBV S-induced syncytia formation prior to the hemifusion step. Our results indicate that membrane fusion (both virus-cell and cell-cell) is blocked in the presence of Abl kinase inhibitors. Studying the effects of Abl kinase inhibitors on IBV will be useful in identifying the host cell pathways required for coronavirus infection. This will provide an insight into possible therapeutic targets to treat infections by current as well as newly emerging coronaviruses. Copyright 2018 The Authors.
    • Coronaviruses: Important emerging human pathogens

      Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2014)
      The identification of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in 2012 reaffirmed the importance of understanding how coronaviruses emerge, infect, and cause disease. By comparing what is known about severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) to what has recently been found for MERS-CoV, researchers are discovering similarities and differences that may be important for pathogenesis. Here we discuss what is known about each virus and what gaps remain in our understanding, especially concerning MERS-CoV.
    • Emergence of the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus

      Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (Public Library of Science, 2013-09-05)
    • Evaluation of SSYA10-001 as a replication inhibitor of severe acute respiratory syndrome, mouse hepatitis, and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronaviruses

      Adedeji, A.O.; Singh, K.; Coleman, C.M. (American Society for Microbiology, 2014)
      We have previously shown that SSYA10-001 blocks severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) replication by inhibiting SARS-CoV helicase (nsp13). Here, we show that SSYA10-001 also inhibits replication of two other coronaviruses, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV) and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). A putative binding pocket for SSYA10-001 was identified and shown to be similar in SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and MHV helicases. These studies show that it is possible to target multiple coronaviruses through broad-spectrum inhibitors.
    • Human polyclonal immunoglobulin G from transchromosomic bovines inhibits MERS-CoV in vivo

      Luke, T.; Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2016)
      As of 13 November 2015, 1618 laboratory-confirmed human cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, including 579 deaths, had been reported to the World Health Organization. No specific preventive or therapeutic agent of proven value against MERS-CoV is currently available. Public Health England and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium identified passive immunotherapy with neutralizing antibodies as a treatment approach that warrants priority study. Two experimental MERS-CoV vaccines were used to vaccinate two groups of transchromosomic (Tc) bovines that were genetically modified to produce large quantities of fully human polyclonal immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies. Vaccination with a clade A ?-irradiated whole killed virion vaccine (Jordan strain) or a clade B spike protein nanoparticle vaccine (Al-Hasa strain) resulted in Tc bovine sera with high enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and neutralizing antibody titers in vitro. Two purified Tc bovine human IgG immunoglobulins (Tc hIgG), SAB-300 (produced after Jordan strain vaccination) and SAB-301 (produced after Al-Hasa strain vaccination), also had high ELISA and neutralizing antibody titers without antibody- dependent enhancement in vitro. SAB-301 was selected for in vivo and preclinical studies. Administration of single doses of SAB-301 12 hours before or 24 and 48 hours after MERS-CoV infection (Erasmus Medical Center 2012 strain) of Ad5-hDPP4 receptor-transduced mice rapidly resulted in viral lung titers near or below the limit of detection. Tc bovines, combined with the ability to quickly produce Tc hIgG and develop in vitro assays and animal model(s), potentially offer a platform to rapidly produce a therapeutic to prevent and/or treat MERSCoV infection and/or other emerging infectious diseases.
    • Inhibition of the IFN-α JAK/STAT Pathway by MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1 Proteins in Human Epithelial Cells

      Zhang, Yamei; Gargan, Siobhan; Roche, Fiona M.; Frieman, Matthew; Stevenson, Nigel J. (MDPI AG, 2022-04-01)
      Coronaviruses (CoVs) have caused several global outbreaks with relatively high mortality rates, including Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS)-CoV, which emerged in 2012, and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-CoV-1, which appeared in 2002. The recent emergence of SARS-CoV-2 highlights the need for immediate and greater understanding of the immune evasion mechanisms used by CoVs. Interferon (IFN)-α is the body’s natural antiviral agent, but its Janus kinase/signal transducer and activators of transcription (JAK/STAT) signalling pathway is often antagonized by viruses, thereby preventing the upregulation of essential IFN stimulated genes (ISGs). Therapeutic IFN-α has disappointingly weak clinical responses in MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1 infected patients, indicating that these CoVs inhibit the IFN-α JAK/STAT pathway. Here we show that in lung alveolar A549 epithelial cells expression of MERS-CoV-nsp2 and SARS-CoV-1-nsp14, but not MERS-CoV-nsp5, increased basal levels of total and phosphorylated STAT1 & STAT2 protein, but reduced IFN-α-mediated phosphorylation of STAT1-3 and induction of MxA. While MERS-CoV-nsp2 and SARS-CoV-1-nsp14 similarly increased basal levels of STAT1 and STAT2 in bronchial BEAS-2B epithelial cells, unlike in A549 cells, they did not enhance basal pSTAT1 nor pSTAT2. However, both viral proteins reduced IFN-α-mediated induction of pSTAT1-3 and ISGs (MxA, ISG15 and PKR) in BEAS-2B cells. Furthermore, even though IFN-α-mediated induction of pSTAT1-3 was not affected by MERS-CoV-nsp5 expression in BEAS-2B cells, downstream ISG induction was reduced, revealing that MERS-CoV-nsp5 may use an alternative mechanism to reduce antiviral ISG induction in this cell line. Indeed, we subsequently discovered that all three viral proteins inhibited STAT1 nuclear translocation in BEAS-2B cells, unveiling another layer of inhibition by which these viral proteins suppress responses to Type 1 IFNs. While these observations highlight cell line-specific differences in the immune evasion effects of MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV-1 proteins, they also demonstrate the broad spectrum of immune evasion strategies these deadly coronaviruses use to stunt antiviral responses to Type IFN. © 2022 by the authors.
    • Interferon-β and mycophenolic acid are potent inhibitors of middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus in cell-based assays

      Hart, B.J.; Dyall, J.; Frieman, M.B. (2014)
      The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) presents a novel emerging threat to public health worldwide. Several treatments for infected individuals have been suggested including IFN, ribavirin and passive immunotherapy with convalescent plasma. Administration of IFN-α2b and ribavirin has improved outcomes of MERS-CoV infection in rhesus macaques when administered within 8 h post-challenge. However, detailed and systematic evidence on the activity of other clinically available drugs is limited. Here we compared the susceptibility of MERS-CoV with different IFN products (IFN-α2b, IFN-γ, IFN-universal, IFN-α2a and IFN-β), as well as with two antivirals, ribavirin and mycophenolic acid (MPA), against MERS-CoV (Hu/Jordan-N3/2012) in vitro. Of all the IFNs tested, IFN-β showed the strongst inhibition of MERS-CoV in vitro, with an IC50 of 1.37 U ml−1, 41 times lower than the previously reported IC50 (56.08 U ml−1) of IFN-α2b. IFN-β inhibition was confirmed in the virus yield reduction assay, with an IC90 of 38.8 U ml−1. Ribavirin did not inhibit viral replication in vitro at a dose that would be applicable to current treatment protocols in humans. In contrast, MPA showed strong inhibition, with an IC50 of 2.87 µM. This drug has not been previously tested against MERS-CoV and may provide an alternative to ribavirin for treatment of MERS-CoV. In conclusion, IFN-β, MPA or a combination of the two may be beneficial in the treatment of MERS-CoV or as a post-exposure intervention in high-risk patients with known exposures to MERS-CoV.
    • MERS-CoV spike nanoparticles protect mice from MERS-CoV infection

      Coleman, C.M.; Venkataraman, T.; Frieman, M.B. (Elsevier Ltd, 2017)
      The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) was first discovered in late 2012 and has gone on to cause over 1800 infections and 650 deaths. There are currently no approved therapeutics or vaccinations for MERS-CoV. The MERS-CoV spike (S) protein is responsible for receptor binding and virion entry to cells, is immunodominant and induces neutralizing antibodies in vivo, all of which, make the S protein an ideal target for anti-MERS-CoV vaccines. In this study, we demonstrate protection induced by vaccination with a recombinant MERS-CoV S nanoparticle vaccine and Matrix-M1 adjuvant combination in mice. The MERS-CoV S nanoparticle vaccine produced high titer anti-S neutralizing antibody and protected mice from MERS-CoV infection in vivo.
    • One-Health: A safe, efficient, dual-use vaccine for humans and animals against middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus and rabies virus

      Wirblich, C.; Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2017)
      Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) emerged in 2012 and is a highly pathogenic respiratory virus. There are no treatment options against MERS-CoV for humans or animals, and there are no large-scale clinical trials for therapies against MERS-CoV. To address this need, we developed an inactivated rabies virus (RABV) that contains the MERS-CoV spike (S) protein expressed on its surface. Our initial recombinant vaccine, BNSP333-S, expresses a full-length wild-type MERS-CoV S protein; however, it showed significantly reduced viral titers compared to those of the parental RABV strain and only low-level incorporation of full-length MERS-CoV S into RABV particles. Therefore, we developed a RABV-MERS vector that contained the MERS-CoV S1 domain of the MERS-CoV S protein fused to the RABV G protein C terminus (BNSP333-S1). BNSP333-S1 grew to titers similar to those of the parental vaccine vector BNSP333, and the RABV G-MERS-CoV S1 fusion protein was efficiently expressed and incorporated into RABV particles. When we vaccinated mice, chemically inactivated BNSP333-S1 induced high-titer neutralizing antibodies. Next, we challenged both vaccinated mice and control mice with MERS-CoV after adenovirus transduction of the human dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (hDPP4) receptor and then analyzed the ability of mice to control MERS-CoV infection. Our results demonstrated that vaccinated mice were fully protected from the MERS-CoV challenge, as indicated by the significantly lower MERS-CoV titers and MERS-CoV and mRNA levels in challenged mice than those in unvaccinated controls. These data establish that an inactivated RABV-MERS S-based vaccine may be effective for use in animals and humans in areas where MERS-CoV is endemic.
    • The ORF4b-encoded accessory proteins of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus and two related bat coronaviruses localize to the nucleus and inhibit innate immune signalling

      Matthews, K.L.; Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (Society for General Microbiology, 2014)
      The recently emerged Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), a betacoronavirus, is associated with severe pneumonia and renal failure. The environmental origin of MERS-CoV is as yet unknown; however, its genome sequence is closely related to those of two bat coronaviruses, named BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5, which were derived from Chinese bat samples. A hallmark of highly pathogenic respiratory viruses is their ability to evade the innate immune response of the host. CoV accessory proteins, for example those from severe acute respiratory syndrome CoV (SARS-CoV), have been shown to block innate antiviral signalling pathways. MERS-CoV, similar to SARS-CoV, has been shown to inhibit type I IFN induction in a variety of cell types in vitro. We therefore hypothesized that MERS-CoV and the phylogenetically related BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5 may encode proteins with similar capabilities. In this study, we have demonstrated that the ORF4b-encoded accessory protein (p4b) of MERS-CoV, BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5 may indeed facilitate innate immune evasion by inhibiting the type I IFN and NF-κB signalling pathways. We also analysed the subcellular localization of p4b from MERS-CoV, BtCoV-HKU4 and BtCoV-HKU5 and demonstrated that all are localized to the nucleus.
    • Pre- and postexposure efficacy of fully human antibodies against Spike protein in a novel humanized mouse model of MERS-CoV infection

      Coleman, C.M.; Berrebi, A.; Sisk, J.M.; Matthews, K.L.; Frieman, M.B. (National Academy of Sciences, 2015)
      Traditional approaches to antimicrobial drug development are poorly suited to combatting the emergence of novel pathogens. Additionally, the lack of small animal models for these infections hinders the in vivo testing of potential therapeutics. Here we demonstrate the use of the VelocImmune technology (a mouse that expresses human antibody-variable heavy chains and ? light chains) alongside the VelociGene technology (which allows for rapid engineering of the mouse genome) to quickly develop and evaluate antibodies against an emerging viral disease. Specifically, we show the rapid generation of fully human neutralizing antibodies against the recently emerged Middle East Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and development of a humanized mouse model for MERS-CoV infection, which was used to demonstrate the therapeutic efficacy of the isolated antibodies. The VelocImmune and VelociGene technologies are powerful platforms that can be used to rapidly respond to emerging epidemics.
    • Purified coronavirus spike protein nanoparticles induce coronavirus neutralizing antibodies in mice

      Coleman, C.M.; Taylor, J.K.; Frieman, M.B. (Elsevier Ltd, 2014)
      Development of vaccination strategies for emerging pathogens are particularly challenging because of the sudden nature of their emergence and the long process needed for traditional vaccine development. Therefore, there is a need for development of a rapid method of vaccine development that can respond to emerging pathogens in a short time frame.The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) in 2003 and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) in late 2012 demonstrate the importance of coronaviruses as emerging pathogens. The spike glycoproteins of coronaviruses reside on the surface of the virion and are responsible for virus entry. The spike glycoprotein is the major immunodominant antigen of coronaviruses and has proven to be an excellent target for vaccine designs that seek to block coronavirus entry and promote antibody targeting of infected cells.Vaccination strategies for coronaviruses have involved live attenuated virus, recombinant viruses, non-replicative virus-like particles expressing coronavirus proteins or DNA plasmids expressing coronavirus genes. None of these strategies has progressed to an approved human coronavirus vaccine in the ten years since SARS-CoV emerged. Here we describe a novel method for generating MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV full-length spike nanoparticles, which in combination with adjuvants are able to produce high titer antibodies in mice.
    • Repurposing of clinically developed drugs for treatment of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus infection

      Coleman, C.M.; Venkataraman, T.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2014)
      Outbreaks of emerging infections present health professionals with the unique challenge of trying to select appropriate pharmacologic treatments in the clinic with little time available for drug testing and development. Typically, clinicians are left with general supportive care and often untested convalescent-phase plasma as available treatment options. Repurposing of approved pharmaceutical drugs for new indications presents an attractive alternative to clinicians, researchers, public health agencies, drug developers, and funding agencies. Given the development times and manufacturing requirements for new products, repurposing of existing drugs is likely the only solution for outbreaks due to emerging viruses. In the studies described here, a library of 290 compounds was screened for antiviral activity against Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) and severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Selection of compounds for inclusion in the library was dependent on current or previous FDA approval or advanced clinical development. Some drugs that had a well-defined cellular pathway as target were included. In total, 27 compounds with activity against both MERS-CoV and SARS-CoV were identified. The compounds belong to 13 different classes of pharmaceuticals, including inhibitors of estrogen receptors used for cancer treatment and inhibitors of dopamine receptor used as antipsychotics. The drugs identified in these screens provide new targets for in vivo studies as well as incorporation into ongoing clinical studies.
    • Treating MERS-CoV during an outbreak

      Coleman, C.M.; Frieman, M.B. (Lancet Publishing Group, 2014)
    • Wild-type and innate immune-deficient mice are not susceptible to the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus

      Coleman, C.M.; Matthews, K.L.; Frieman, M.B. (2014)
      The Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) is a newly emerging highly pathogenic virus causing almost 50% lethality in infected individuals. The development of a small animal model is critical for the understanding of this virus and to aid in development of countermeasures against MERS-CoV. We found that BALB/c, 129/SvEv and 129/SvEv STAT1 knockout mice are not permissive to MERS-CoV infection. The lack of infection may be due to the low level of mRNA and protein for the MERS-CoV receptor, dipeptidyl peptidase 4 (DPP4), in the lungs of mice. The low level of DPP4 in the lungs likely contributes to the lack of viral replication in these mouse models and suggests that a transgenic mouse model expressing DPP4 to higher levels is necessary to create a mouse model for MERS-CoV.
    • A yeast suppressor screen used to identify mammalian SIRT1 as a proviral factor for middle east respiratory syndrome coronavirus replication

      Weston, S.; Matthews, K.L.; Lent, R.; Vlk, A.; Haupt, R.; Kingsbury, T.; Frieman, M.B. (American Society for Microbiology, 2019)
      Viral proteins must intimately interact with the host cell machinery during virus replication. Here, we used the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae as a system to identify novel functional interactions between viral proteins and eukaryotic cells. Our work demonstrates that when the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) ORF4a accessory gene is expressed in yeast it causes a slow-growth phenotype. ORF4a has been characterized as an interferon antagonist in mammalian cells, and yet yeast lack an interferon system, suggesting further interactions between ORF4a and eukaryotic cells. Using the slow-growth phenotype as a reporter of ORF4a function, we utilized the yeast knockout library collection to perform a suppressor screen where we identified the YDL042C/SIR2 yeast gene as a suppressor of ORF4a function. The mammalian homologue of SIR2 is SIRT1, an NAD-dependent histone deacetylase. We found that when SIRT1 was inhibited by either chemical or genetic manipulation, there was reduced MERS-CoV replication, suggesting that SIRT1 is a proviral factor for MERS-CoV. Moreover, ORF4a inhibited SIRT1-mediated modulation of NF-?B signaling, demonstrating a functional link between ORF4a and SIRT1 in mammalian cells. Overall, the data presented here demonstrate the utility of yeast studies for identifying genetic interactions between viral proteins and eukaryotic cells. We also demonstrate for the first time that SIRT1 is a proviral factor for MERS-CoV replication and that ORF4a has a role in modulating its activity in cells. IMPORTANCE Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) initially emerged in 2012 and has since been responsible for over 2,300 infections, with a case fatality ratio of approximately 35%. We have used the highly characterized model system of Saccharomyces cerevisiae to investigate novel functional interactions between viral proteins and eukaryotic cells that may provide new avenues for antiviral intervention. We identify a functional link between the MERS-CoV ORF4a proteins and the YDL042C/SIR2 yeast gene. The mammalian homologue of SIR2 is SIRT1, an NAD-dependent histone deacetylase. We demonstrate for the first time that SIRT1 is a proviral factor for MERS-CoV replication and that ORF4a has a role in modulating its activity in mammalian cells.