Unraveling the antiviral activity of plitidepsin by subcellular and morphological analysis

Antiviral Res. 2022 Feb 26;105270

M Sachse, R Tenorio, I Fernández de Castro, J Muñoz-Basagoiti, D Perez-Zsolt, D Raïch-Regué, J Rodon, A Losada, P Avilés, C Cuevas, R Paredes, J Segalés, B Clotet, J Vergara-Alert, N Izquierdo-Useros, C Risco


The pandemic caused by the new coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has made evident the need for broad-spectrum, efficient antiviral treatments to combat emerging and re-emerging viruses. Plitidepsin is an antitumor agent of marine origin that has also shown a potent pre-clinical efficacy against SARS-CoV-2. Plitidepsin targets the host protein eEF1A (eukaryotic translation elongation factor 1 alpha) and affects viral infection at an early, post-entry step. Because electron microscopy is a valuable tool to study virus-cell interactions and the mechanism of action of antiviral drugs, in this work we have used transmission electron microscopy (TEM) to evaluate the effects of plitidepsin in SARS-CoV-2 infection in cultured Vero E6 cells 24 and 48h post-infection. In the absence of plitidepsin, TEM morphological analysis showed double-membrane vesicles (DMVs), organelles that support coronavirus genome replication, single-membrane vesicles with viral particles, large vacuoles with groups of viruses and numerous extracellular virions attached to the plasma membrane. When treated with plitidepsin, no viral structures were found in SARS-CoV-2-infected Vero E6 cells. Immunogold detection of SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein and double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) provided clear signals in cells infected in the absence of plitidepsin, but complete absence in cells infected and treated with plitidepsin. The present study shows that plitidepsin blocks the biogenesis of viral replication organelles and the morphogenesis of virus progeny. Electron microscopy morphological analysis coupled to immunogold labeling of SARS-CoV-2 products offers a unique approach to understand how antivirals such as plitidepsin work.

doi: 10.1016/j.antiviral.2022.105270. Online ahead of print.

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