Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a ubiquitous betaherpesvirus that can cause severe disease following in utero exposure, during primary infection, or la- tent virus reactivation in immunocompromised populations. These complications lead to a 1- to 2-billion-dollar economic burden, making vaccine development and/or alternative treatments a high priority. Current treatments for HCMV include nucleoside analogues such as ganciclovir (GCV), foscarnet, and cidofovir. Recently, letermovir, a terminase complex inhibitor, was approved for prophylaxis after stem cell transplantation. These treatments have unwanted side effects, and HCMV is be- coming resistant to them. Therefore, we sought to develop an alternative treatment that targets a different stage in viral infection. Currently, small antiviral peptides are being investigated as anti-influenza and anti-HIV treatments. We have developed heparan sulfate-binding peptides as tools for preventing CMV infections. These pep- tides are highly effective at stopping infection of fibroblasts with in vitro-derived HCMV and murine cytomegalovirus (MCMV). However, they do not prevent MCMV infection in vivo. Interestingly, these peptides inhibit infectivity of in vivo-derived CMVs, albeit not as well as tissue culture-grown CMVs. We further demonstrate that this class of heparan sulfate-binding peptides is incapable of inhibiting MCMV cell- to-cell spread, which is independent of heparan sulfate usage. These data indicate that inhibition of CMV infection can be achieved using synthetic polybasic peptides, but cell-to-cell spread and in vivo-grown CMVs require further investigation to de- sign appropriate anti-CMV peptides.
Jackson JW, Hancock TJ, Dogra P, Patel R, Arav-Boger R, Williams AD, Kennel SJ, Wall JS, Sparer TE. 2019. Anticytomegalovirus peptides point to new insights for CMV entry mechanisms and the limitations of in vitro screenings. mSphere 4:e00586-18. https://doi.org/10.1128/mSphere.00586-18.