Nirmatrelvir-resistant SARS-CoV-2 variants with high fitness in an infectious cell culture system

64 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

The oral protease inhibitor nirmatrelvir is of key importance for prevention of severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To facilitate resistance monitoring, we studied severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) escape from nirmatrelvir in cell culture. Resistant variants harbored combinations of substitutions in the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro). Reverse genetics revealed that E166V and L50F + E166V conferred high resistance in infectious culture, replicon, and Mpro systems. While L50F, E166V, and L50F + E166V decreased replication and Mpro activity, L50F and L50F + E166V variants had high fitness in the infectious system. Naturally occurring L50F compensated for fitness cost of E166V and promoted viral escape. Molecular dynamics simulations revealed that E166V and L50F + E166V weakened nirmatrelvir-Mpro binding. Polymerase inhibitor remdesivir and monoclonal antibody bebtelovimab retained activity against nirmatrelvir-resistant variants, and combination with nirmatrelvir enhanced treatment efficacy compared to individual compounds. These findings have implications for monitoring and ensuring treatments with efficacy against SARS-CoV-2 and emerging sarbecoviruses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbereadd7197
JournalScience Advances
Volume8
Issue number51
Pages (from-to)eadd7197
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2022

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