The discovery of Zika virus NS2B-NS3 inhibitors with antiviral activity via an integrated virtual screening approach

Muhammad Usman Mirza, Ida Alanko, Michiel Vanmeert, Kendall M. Muzzarelli, Outi M. H. Salo-Ahen, Iskandar Abdullah, Iulia A. Kovari, Sandra Claes, Steven De Jonghe, Dominique Schols, Raymond F. Schinazi, Ladislau C. Kovari, John F. Trant, Sarfraz Ahmad, Matheus Froeyen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
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With expanding recent outbreaks and a lack of treatment options, the Zika virus (ZIKV) poses a severe health concern. The availability of ZIKV NS2B-NS3 co-crystallized structures paved the way for rational drug discovery. A computer-aided structure-based approach was used to screen a diverse library of compounds against ZIKV NS2B-NS3 protease. The top hits were selected based on various binding free energy calculations followed by per-residue decomposition analysis. The selected hits were then evaluated for their biological potential with ZIKV protease inhibition assay and antiviral activity. Among 26 selected compounds, 8 compounds showed promising activity against ZIKV protease with a percentage inhibition of greater than 25 and 3 compounds displayed ∼50% at 10 µM, which indicates an enrichment rate of approximately 36% (threshold IC 50 < 10 µM) in the ZIKV-NS2B-NS3 protease inhibition assay. Of these, only one compound (23) produced whole-cell anti-ZIKV activity, and the binding mode of 23 was extensively analyzed through long-run molecular dynamics simulations. The current study provides a promising starting point for the further development of novel compounds against ZIKV.

Original languageEnglish
Article number106220
Number of pages11
JournalEuropean Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2022
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Virtual screening
  • Zika virus
  • NS2B-NS3 protease
  • Flavivirus
  • Protease inhibitor


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