Comparison of broad-spectrum antiviral activities of the synthetic rocaglate CR-31-B (−) and the eIF4A-inhibitor Silvestrol

Christin Müller, Wiebke Obermann, Falk W. Schulte, Kerstin Lange-Grünweller, Lisa Oestereich, Fabian Elgner, Mirco Glitscher, Eberhard Hildt, Kamini Singh, Hans Guido Wendel, Roland K. Hartmann, John Ziebuhr, Arnold Grünweller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

30 Scopus citations


Rocaglates, a class of natural compounds isolated from plants of the genus Aglaia, are potent inhibitors of translation initiation. They are proposed to form stacking interactions with polypurine sequences in the 5′-untranslated region (UTR) of selected mRNAs, thereby clamping the RNA substrate onto eIF4A and causing inhibition of the translation initiation complex. Since virus replication relies on the host translation machinery, it is not surprising that the rocaglate Silvestrol has broad-spectrum antiviral activity. Unfortunately, synthesis of Silvestrol is sophisticated and time-consuming, thus hampering the prospects for further antiviral drug development. Here, we present the less complex structured synthetic rocaglate CR-31-B (−) as a novel compound with potent broad-spectrum antiviral activity in primary cells and in an ex vivo bronchial epithelial cell system. CR-31-B (−) inhibited the replication of corona-, Zika-, Lassa-, Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever viruses and, to a lesser extent, hepatitis E virus (HEV) at non-cytotoxic low nanomolar concentrations. Since HEV has a polypurine-free 5′-UTR that folds into a stable hairpin structure, we hypothesized that RNA clamping by Silvestrol and its derivatives may also occur in a polypurine-independent but structure-dependent manner. Interestingly, the HEV 5′-UTR conferred sensitivity towards Silvestrol but not to CR-31-B (−). However, if an exposed polypurine stretch was introduced into the HEV 5′-UTR, CR-31-B (−) became an active inhibitor comparable to Silvestrol. Moreover, thermodynamic destabilization of the HEV 5′-UTR led to reduced translational inhibition by Silvestrol, suggesting differences between rocaglates in their mode of action, most probably by engaging Silvestrol's additional dioxane moiety.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number104706
JournalAntiviral Research
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Antiviral activity
  • CR-31-B
  • Rocaglates
  • Silvestrol
  • Translation initiation
  • eIF4A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Virology


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