Objectives: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection causes chronic liver disease and is a major public health problem worldwide. The aim of this study was to evaluate the potential of Monascus pigment derivatives, which were derived from a microbial secondary metabolite synthesized from polyketides by Monascus spp., as HCV antiviral agents. Methods: We performed an in vitro RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) assay to screen for HCV RdRp inhibitors. The anti-HCV activity of RdRp inhibitors in HCV-replicating cells was evaluated by quantification of the RNA viral genome. Molecular docking analysis was performed to predict the binding sites of the selected RdRp inhibitors. Results: We have identified a Monascus pigment and its derivatives as inhibitors of the HCV NS5B RdRp. A group of Monascus orange pigment (MOP) amino acid derivatives, in which the reactive oxygen moiety was changed to amino acids, significantly inhibited HCV replication. Further, combination of the MOP derivatives (Phe, Val or Leu conjugates) with interferon (IFN)-α inhibited HCV replication more than IFN-α treatment alone. Lastly, molecular docking studies indicate the inhibitors may bind to a thumb subdomain allosteric site of NS5B. The antiviral activity of the MOP derivatives was related to a modulation of the mevalonate pathway, since the mevalonate-induced increase in HCV replication was suppressed by the MOP compounds. Conclusions: Our results identify amino acid derivatives of MOP as potential anti-HCV agents and suggest that their combination with IFN-α might offer an alternative strategy for the control of HCV replication.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Microbiology (medical)
- Infectious Diseases
- Pharmacology (medical)