Identifying SARS-CoV-2 antiviral compounds by screening for small molecule inhibitors of nsp14/nsp10 exoribonuclease

Berta Canal, Allison W. McClure, Joseph F. Curran, Mary Wu, Rachel Ulferts, Florian Weissmann, Jingkun Zeng, Agustina P. Bertolin, Jennifer C. Milligan, Souradeep Basu, Lucy S. Drury, Tom D. Deegan, Ryo Fujisawa, Emma L. Roberts, Clovis Basier, Karim Labib, Rupert Beale, Michael Howell, John F. X. Diffley (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

28 Citations (Scopus)
124 Downloads (Pure)


SARS-CoV-2 is a coronavirus that emerged in 2019 and rapidly spread across the world causing a deadly pandemic with tremendous social and economic costs. Healthcare systems worldwide are under great pressure, and there is an urgent need for effective antiviral treatments. The only currently approved antiviral treatment for COVID-19 is remdesivir, an inhibitor of viral genome replication. SARS-CoV-2 proliferation relies on the enzymatic activities of the non-structural proteins (nsp), which makes them interesting targets for the development of new antiviral treatments. With the aim to identify novel SARS-CoV-2 antivirals, we have purified the exoribonuclease/methyltransferase (nsp14) and its cofactor (nsp10) and developed biochemical assays compatible with high-throughput approaches to screen for exoribonuclease inhibitors. We have screened a library of over 5000 commercial compounds and identified patulin and aurintricarboxylic acid (ATA) as inhibitors of nsp14 exoribonuclease in vitro. We found that patulin and ATA inhibit replication of SARS-CoV-2 in a VERO E6 cell-culture model. These two new antiviral compounds will be valuable tools for further coronavirus research as well as potentially contributing to new therapeutic opportunities for COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2445-2464
Number of pages20
JournalBiochemical Journal
Issue number13
Early online date11 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jul 2021


  • coronavirus
  • covid-19
  • methyltransferase
  • mRNA cap

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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