Drug repurposing screens reveal cell-type-specific entry pathways and FDA-approved drugs active against SARS-Cov-2

Mark Dittmar, Jae Seung Lee, Kanupriya Whig, Elisha Segrist, Minghua Li, Brinda Kamalia, Lauren Castellana, Kasirajan Ayyanathan, Fabian L. Cardenas-Diaz, Edward E. Morrisey, Rachel Truitt, Wenli Yang, Kellie Jurado, Kirandeep Samby, Holly Ramage, David C. Schultz, Sara Cherry

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

131 Scopus citations


There is an urgent need for antivirals to treat the newly emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). To identify new candidates, we screen a repurposing library of ∼3,000 drugs. Screening in Vero cells finds few antivirals, while screening in human Huh7.5 cells validates 23 diverse antiviral drugs. Extending our studies to lung epithelial cells, we find that there are major differences in drug sensitivity and entry pathways used by SARS-CoV-2 in these cells. Entry in lung epithelial Calu-3 cells is pH independent and requires TMPRSS2, while entry in Vero and Huh7.5 cells requires low pH and triggering by acid-dependent endosomal proteases. Moreover, we find nine drugs are antiviral in respiratory cells, seven of which have been used in humans, and three are US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved, including cyclosporine. We find that the antiviral activity of cyclosporine is targeting Cyclophilin rather than calcineurin, revealing essential host targets that have the potential for rapid clinical implementation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number108959
JournalCell Reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 6 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • HTS
  • SARS2
  • antiviral
  • coronavirus
  • cyclophilin
  • cyclosporin
  • drugs
  • entry
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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