High-throughput assays using a luciferase-expressing replicon, virus-like particles, and full-length virus for West Nile virus drug discovery

Francesc Puig-Basagoiti, Tia S. Deas, Ping Ren, Mark Tilgner, David M. Ferguson, Pei Yong Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

85 Scopus citations


Many flaviviruses cause significant human disease worldwide. The development of flavivirus chemotherapy requires reliable high-throughput screening (HTS) assays. Although genetic systems have been developed for many flaviviruses, their usage in antiviral HTS assays has not been well explored. Here we compare three cell-based HTS assays for West Nile virus (WNV) drug discovery: (i) an assay that uses a cell line harboring a persistently replicating subgenomic replicon (containing a deletion of viral structural genes), (ii) an assay that uses packaged virus-like particles containing replicon RNA, and (iii) an assay that uses a full-length reporting virus. A Renilla luciferase gene was engineered into the replicon or into the full-length viral genome to monitor viral replication. Potential inhibitors could be identified through suppression of luciferase signals upon compound incubation. The antiviral assays were optimized in a 96-well format, validated with known WNV inhibitors, and proved useful in identifying a new inhibitor(s) through HTS of a compound library. In addition, because each assay encompasses multiple but discrete steps of the viral life cycle, the three systems could potentially be used to discriminate the mode of action of any inhibitor among viral entry (detected by assays ii and iii but not by assay i), replication (including viral translation and RNA synthesis; detected by assays i to iii), and virion assembly (detected by assay iii but not by assays i and ii). The approaches described in this study should be applicable to the development of cell-based assays for other flaviviruses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4980-4988
Number of pages9
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2005


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases

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