Akt Kinase Intervenes in Flavivirus Replication by Interacting with Viral Protein NS5

Albentosa-González, Laura, et al. “Akt Kinase Intervenes in Flavivirus Replication by Interacting with Viral Protein NS5.” Viruses, no. 5, MDPI AG, May 2021, p. 896. Crossref, doi:10.3390/v13050896.


Arthropod-borne flaviviruses, such as Zika virus (ZIKV), Usutu virus (USUV), and West Nile virus (WNV), are a growing cause of human illness and death around the world. Presently, no licensed antivirals to control them are available and, therefore, search for broad-spectrum antivirals, including host-directed compounds, is essential. The PI3K/Akt pathway controls essential cellular functions involved in cell metabolism and proliferation. Moreover, Akt has been found to participate in modulating replication in different viruses including the flaviviruses. In this work we studied the interaction of flavivirus NS5 polymerases with the cellular kinase Akt. In vitro NS5 phosphorylation experiments with Akt showed that flavivirus NS5 polymerases are phosphorylated and co-immunoprecipitate by Akt. Polymerase activity assays of Ala- and Glu-generated mutants for the Akt-phosphorylated residues also indicate that Glu mutants of ZIKV and USUV NS5s present a reduced primer-extension activity that was not observed in WNV mutants. Furthermore, treatment with Akt inhibitors (MK-2206, honokiol and ipatasertib) reduced USUV and ZIKV titers in cell culture but, except for honokiol, not WNV. All these findings suggest an important role for Akt in flavivirus replication although with specific differences among viruses and encourage further investigations to examine the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway as an antiviral potential target.