Journal of virology

Simultaneous treatment of human bronchial epithelial cells with serine and cysteine protease inhibitors prevents severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus entry.

PMID 22496216


The type II transmembrane protease TMPRSS2 activates the spike (S) protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) on the cell surface following receptor binding during viral entry into cells. In the absence of TMPRSS2, SARS-CoV achieves cell entry via an endosomal pathway in which cathepsin L may play an important role, i.e., the activation of spike protein fusogenicity. This study shows that a commercial serine protease inhibitor (camostat) partially blocked infection by SARS-CoV and human coronavirus NL63 (HCoV-NL63) in HeLa cells expressing the receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and TMPRSS2. Simultaneous treatment of the cells with camostat and EST [(23,25)trans-epoxysuccinyl-L-leucylamindo-3-methylbutane ethyl ester], a cathepsin inhibitor, efficiently prevented both cell entry and the multistep growth of SARS-CoV in human Calu-3 airway epithelial cells. This efficient inhibition could be attributed to the dual blockade of entry from the cell surface and through the endosomal pathway. These observations suggest camostat as a candidate antiviral drug to prevent or depress TMPRSS2-dependent infection by SARS-CoV.

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