A nanoluciferase SARS-CoV-2 for rapid neutralization testing and screening of anti-infective drugs for COVID-19

Xuping Xie, Antonio E. Muruato, Xianwen Zhang, Kumari G. Lokugamage, Camila R. Fontes-Garfias, Jing Zou, Jianying Liu, Ping Ren, Mini Balakrishnan, Tomas Cihlar, Chien Te K. Tseng, Shinji Makino, Vineet D. Menachery, John P. Bilello, Pei Yong Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

138 Scopus citations


A high-throughput platform would greatly facilitate coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) serological testing and antiviral screening. Here we present a high-throughput nanoluciferase severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2-Nluc) that is genetically stable and replicates similarly to the wild-type virus in cell culture. SARS-CoV-2-Nluc can be used to measure neutralizing antibody activity in patient sera within 5 hours, and it produces results in concordance with a plaque reduction neutralization test (PRNT). Additionally, using SARS-CoV-2-Nluc infection of A549 cells expressing human ACE2 receptor (A549-hACE2), we show that the assay can be used for antiviral screening. Using the optimized SARS-CoV-2-Nluc assay, we evaluate a panel of antivirals and other anti-infective drugs, and we identify nelfinavir, rupintrivir, and cobicistat as the most selective inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2-Nluc (EC50 0.77 to 2.74 µM). In contrast, most of the clinically approved antivirals, including tenofovir alafenamide, emtricitabine, sofosbuvir, ledipasvir, and velpatasvir were inactive at concentrations up to 10 µM. Collectively, this high-throughput platform represents a reliable tool for rapid neutralization testing and antiviral screening for SARS-CoV-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5214
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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