[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: An affinity-selection study using size exclusion chromatography (SEC) combined with off-line electrospray ionization mass spectrometry (ESI-MS) was performed on libraries of peptidic α-ketoamide inhibitors directed against the hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3 protease. A limiting amount of HCV NS3 protease (25 µM) was incubated with equimolar amounts (100 µM) of 49 reversible mechanism-based ketoamide inhibitors, previously grouped into seven sets to ensure clearly distinguishable mass differences of the enzyme-inhibitor complexes (>10 Da). The unbound compounds were separated rapidly from the protease and the protease-inhibitor complexes by SEC spin columns. The eluate of the SEC was immediately analyzed by direct-infusion ESI-MS. An enzyme-inhibitor complex, with a molecular mass corresponding to the NS3 protease binding to the preferred inhibitor, SCH212986, was the only molecular species detected. By increasing the molar ratio of HCV NS3 protease to inhibitors to 1:2 while keeping the inhibitors' concentration constant, the complex of the second most tightly bound inhibitor, SCH215426, was also identified. Although the potencies of these inhibitors were virtually un-measurable by kinetic assays, a rank order of CVS4441 > SCH212986 > SCH215426 was deduced for their inhibition potencies by direct competition experiment with CVS4441 (K(i)*>80 µM). As discussed in the article, through judicious application of this strategy, even large libraries of fairly weak, reversible and slow-binding inhibitors could be rapidly screened and rank ordered to provide critical initial structure-activity insights.
Full-text · Article · Aug 2011 · Journal of Mass Spectrometry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The hepatitis C virus (HCV) serine protease (NS3/4A) processes the NS3-NS5B segment of the viral polyprotein and also cleaves host proteins involved in interferon signaling, making it an important target for antiviral drug discovery and suggesting a wide breadth of substrate specificity. We compared substrate specificities of the HCV protease with that of the GB virus B (GBV-B), a distantly related nonhuman primate hepacivirus, by exchanging amino acid sequences at the NS4B/5A and/or NS5A/5B cleavage junctions between these viruses within the backbone of subgenomic replicons. This mutagenesis study demonstrated that the GBV-B protease had a broader substrate tolerance, a feature corroborated by structural homology modeling. However, despite efficient polyprotein processing, GBV-B RNAs containing HCV sequences at the C-terminus of NS4B had a pseudo-lethal replication phenotype. Replication-competent revertants contained second-site substitutions within the NS3 protease or NS4B N-terminus, providing genetic evidence for an essential interaction between NS3 and NS4B during genome replication.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Small-molecule hepatitis C virus (HCV) NS3 protease inhibitors such as boceprevir (SCH 503034) have been shown to have antiviral activity when they are used as monotherapy and in combination with pegylated alpha interferon and ribavirin in clinical trials. Improvements in inhibitor potency and pharmacokinetic properties offer opportunities to increase drug exposure and to further increase the sustained virological response. Exploration of the structure-activity relationships of ketoamide inhibitors related to boceprevir has led to the discovery of SCH 900518, a novel ketoamide protease inhibitor which forms a reversible covalent bond with the active-site serine. It has an overall inhibition constant (K*(i)) of 7 nM and a dissociation half-life of 1 to 2 h. SCH 900518 inhibited replicon RNA at a 90% effective concentration (EC(90)) of 40 nM. In biochemical assays, SCH 900518 was active against proteases of genotypes 1 to 3. A 2-week treatment with 5x EC(90) of the inhibitor reduced the replicon RNA level by 3 log units. Selection of replicon cells with SCH 900518 resulted in the outgrowth of several resistant mutants (with the T54A/S and A156S/T/V mutations). Cross-resistance studies demonstrated that the majority of mutations for resistance to boceprevir and telaprevir caused similar fold losses of activity against all three inhibitors; however, SCH 900518 retained more activity against these mutants due to its higher intrinsic potency. Combination treatment with alpha interferon enhanced the inhibition of replicon RNA and suppressed the emergence of resistant replicon colonies, supporting the use of SCH 900518-pegylated alpha interferon combination therapy in the clinic. In summary, the results of the preclinical characterization of the antiviral activity of SCH 900518 support its evaluation in clinical studies.
Full-text · Article · Mar 2010 · Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Boceprevir (SCH 503034), 1, a novel HCV NS3 serine protease inhibitor discovered in our laboratories, is currently undergoing phase III clinical trials. Detailed investigations toward a second generation protease inhibitor culminated in the discovery of narlaprevir (SCH 900518), 37, with improved potency (10-fold over 1), pharmacokinetic profile and physicochemical characteristics, currently in phase II human trials. Exploration of synthetic sequence for preparation of 37 resulted in a route that required no silica gel purification for the entire synthesis.Keywords (keywords): Hepatitis C virus NS3 serine protease inhibitor; α-ketoamide; narlaprevir; SCH 900518
No preview · Article · Feb 2010 · ACS Medicinal Chemistry Letters
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Background: Small molecule hepatitis C virus (HCV) nonstructural protein 3 (NS3) protease inhibitors have shown antiviral activity as monotherapy and in combination with pegylated interferon-alfa and ribavirin in clinical trials; however, clinical efficacy can be limited by inadequate drug exposure and development of viral resistance. Improvement in inhibitor potency and pharmacokinetic properties offers opportunities to overcome such limitations and to further increase SVR. Methods: Inhibition of HCV NS3 protease was measured using a single-chain NS3 (3-181)/4A protease. The antiviral effect and resistance study of protease inhibitors were evaluated using genotype 1b HCV replicon cells. Results: Combination of medicinal chemistry and structure-based design has led to the discovery of SCH 900518, a novel ketoamide protease inhibitor which forms a reversible covalent bond with the active site serine with an inhibition constant (K i *) of 7 nM. SCH 900518 showed a 10-fold improvement in replicon potency (EC 90 = 40 nM) compared to boceprevir and telaprevir. In biochemical assays, SCH 900518 was active against proteases of genotypes 1a, 1b, 2, and 3. A 2-week treatment with 5× EC 90 of the inhibitor reduced replicon RNA by 3-log. High exposures of SCH 900518 had minimal effects on a variety of human normal and tumor cell lines. Selection of replicon cells with SCH 900518 resulted in outgrowth of several major resistant mutants (T54A/S, A156S/T/V). Preclinical cross-resistance studies demonstrated that the majority of mutations against boceprevir and telaprevir showed similar fold loss of activity against all three inhibitors; however, SCH 900518 retained more activity against these mutants due to its higher intrinsic potency. Combination treatment with interferon-alfa enhanced inhibition of replicon RNA and suppressed emergence of resistant replicon colonies, supporting the use of SCH 900518/peginterferon combination therapy in the clinic. Conclusions: The preclinical characterization of SCH 900518 supports its progression toward clinical evaluation of safety, pharmacokinetic, and pharmacodynamic parameters.
Full-text · Article · Apr 2009 · Journal of Hepatology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The structures of both native and S139A holo-HCV NS3/4A protease domain were solved to high resolution. Subsequently, structures were determined for a series of ketoamide inhibitors in complex with the protease. The changes in the inhibitor potency were correlated with changes in the buried surface area upon binding the inhibitor to the active site. The largest contributions to the binding energy arise from the hydrophobic interactions of the P1 and P2 groups as they bind to the S1 and S2 pockets. This correlation of the changes in potency with increased buried surface area contributed directly to the design of a potent tripeptide inhibitor of the HCV NS3/4A protease, which is currently in clinical trials.
Full-text · Article · Jun 2008 · Journal of Synchrotron Radiation
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The invention of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) (1,2) provided a powerful tool to modify DNA sequences in genetic engineering. With numerous mutagenesis methods available, such
as traditional sequential PCR (3), “megaprimer PCR”(4–7), marker-coupled PCR (8), and so on, introducing changes to DNA sequences has become less tedious and more efficient. Recently, marketed site-directed
mutagenesis (SDM) kits, such as Transformer™ Site-Directed Mutagenesis Kit (Clontech, San Francisco, CA), and Altered Site®
II in vitro Site-Directed Mutagenesis Systems (Promega, Madison, WI), even eliminate the necessity of subcloning the amplified
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The structures of both the native holo-HCV NS3/4A protease domain and the protease domain with a serine 139 to alanine (S139A) mutation were solved to high resolution. Subsequently, structures were determined for a series of ketoamide inhibitors in complex with the protease. The changes in the inhibitor potency were correlated with changes in the buried surface area upon binding the inhibitor to the active site. The largest contribution to the binding energy arises from the hydrophobic interactions of the P1 and P2 groups as they bind to the S1 and S2 pockets [the numbering of the subsites is as defined in Berger, A.; Schechter, I. Philos. Trans. R. Soc. London, Ser. B 1970, 257, 249-264]. This correlation of the changes in potency with increased buried surface area contributed directly to the design of a potent tripeptide inhibitor of the HCV NS3/4A protease that is currently in clinical trials.
No preview · Article · Jun 2007 · Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Novel hepatitis C virus ("HCV") inhibitor combinations comprising an HCV protease inhibitor and HCV polymerase inhibitor, and optionally one or more biologically active agents, as well as uses of these combinations as HCV inhibitors and for treating hepatitis C and related disorders are disclosed.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is the major cause of chronic liver disease, leading to cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma, which affects more than 170 million people worldwide. Currently the only therapeutic regimens are subcutaneous interferon-alpha or polyethylene glycol (PEG)-interferon-alpha alone or in combination with oral ribavirin. Although combination therapy is reasonably successful with the majority of genotypes, its efficacy against the predominant genotype (genotype 1) is moderate at best, with only about 40% of the patients showing sustained virological response. Herein, the SAR leading to the discovery of 70 (SCH 503034), a novel, potent, selective, orally bioavailable NS3 protease inhibitor that has been advanced to clinical trials in human beings for the treatment of hepatitis C viral infections is described. X-ray structure of inhibitor 70 complexed with the NS3 protease and biological data are also discussed.
No preview · Article · Nov 2006 · Journal of Medicinal Chemistry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: HCV NS3 protease variants resistant to the protease inhibitor SCH 503034 were selected. Three mutations, T54A, V170A and A156S mutations conferred low to moderate levels of resistance (<20-fold). Longer exposure (>10 passages) or selection with higher levels of compound led to the selection of a more resistant variant, A156T (>100-fold). [Lin, C., Lin, K., Luong, Y.P., Rao, B.G., Wei, Y.Y., Brennan, D.L., Fulghum, J.R., Hsiao, H.M., Ma, S., Maxwell, J.P., Cottrell, K.M., Perni, R.B., Gates, C.A., Kwong, A.D., 2004. In vitro resistance studies of hepatitis C virus serine protease inhibitors, VX-950 and BILN 2061: structural analysis indicates different resistance mechanisms. J. Biol. Chem. 279(17), 17508-17514; Lu, L., Pilot-Matias, T.J., Stewart, K.D., Randolph, J.T., Pithawalla, R., He, W., Huang, P.P., Klein, L.L., Mo, H., Molla, A., 2004. Mutations conferring resistance to a potent hepatitis C virus serine protease inhibitor in vitro. Antimicrob. Agents Chemother. 48(6), 2260-2266.] Combination with IFN-alpha drastically reduced the number of emergent colonies. Resistant colonies showed no change in sensitivity to IFN-alpha. Although the A156T mutation conferred the highest level of resistance to SCH 503034, it significantly reduced the colony formation efficiency (CFE) of the mutant replicon RNA, and rendered replicon cells less fit than those bearing wild-type replicons. Replicon cells bearing mutation A156S were less fit than wild-type in co-culture growth competition assays but showed no impact on CFE. The V170A mutation, on the other hand, did not affect replicon fitness in either assay, which was consistent with its emergence as the dominant mutant after 12 months of continuous selection. The reduced fitness of the most resistant variant suggests that it may be rare in naïve patients and that development of high-level resistance may be slow. Combination therapy with IFN-alpha should also greatly reduce the potential emergence of resistance.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Drug resistance is a major issue in the development and use of specific antiviral therapies. Here we report the isolation and characterization of hepatitis C virus RNA replicons resistant to a novel ketoamide inhibitor of the NS3/4A protease, SCH6 (originally SCH446211). Resistant replicon RNAs were generated by G418 selection in the presence of SCH6 in a dose-dependent fashion, with the emergence of resistance reduced at higher SCH6 concentrations. Sequencing demonstrated remarkable consistency in the mutations conferring SCH6 resistance in genotype 1b replicons derived from two different strains of hepatitis C virus, A156T/A156V and R109K. R109K, a novel mutation not reported previously to cause resistance to NS3/4A inhibitors, conferred moderate resistance only to SCH6. Structural analysis indicated that this reflects unique interactions of SCH6 with P'-side residues in the protease active site. In contrast, A156T conferred high level resistance to SCH6 and a related ketoamide, SCH503034, as well as BILN 2061 and VX-950. Unlike R109K, which had minimal impact on NS3/4A enzymatic function, A156T significantly reduced NS3/4A catalytic efficiency, polyprotein processing, and replicon fitness. However, three separate second-site mutations, P89L, Q86R, and G162R, were capable of partially reversing A156T-associated defects in polyprotein processing and/or replicon fitness, without significantly reducing resistance to the protease inhibitor.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Cleavage of the hepatitis C virus (HCV) polyprotein by the viral NS3 protease releases functional viral proteins essential
for viral replication. Recent studies by Foy and coworkers strongly suggest that NS3-mediated cleavage of host factors may
abrogate cellular response to alpha interferon (IFN-α) (E. Foy, K. Li, R. Sumpter, Jr., Y.-M. Loo, C. L. Johnson, C. Wang,
P. M. Fish, M. Yoneyama, T. Fujita, S. M. Lemon, and M. Gale, Jr., Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 102:2986-2991, 2005, and E. Foy, K. Li, C. Wang, R. Sumpter, Jr., M. Ikeda, S. M. Lemon, and M. Gale, Jr., Science 300:1145-1148, 2003). Blockage of NS3 protease activity therefore is expected to inhibit HCV replication by both direct suppression
of viral protein production as well as by restoring host responsiveness to IFN. Using structure-assisted design, a ketoamide
inhibitor, SCH 503034, was generated which demonstrated potent (overall inhibition constant, 14 nM) time-dependent inhibition
of the NS3 protease in cell-free enzyme assays as well as robust in vitro activity in the HCV replicon system, as monitored
by immunofluorescence and real-time PCR analysis. Continuous exposure of replicon-bearing cell lines to six times the 90%
effective concentration of SCH 503034 for 15 days resulted in a greater than 4-log reduction in replicon RNA. The combination
of SCH 503034 with IFN was more effective in suppressing replicon synthesis than either compound alone, supporting the suggestion
of Foy and coworkers that combinations of IFN with protease inhibitors would lead to enhanced therapeutic efficacy.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Although establishment of the subgenomic replicon system has considerably facilitated genetic analysis of HCV replication, many details remain largely unknown. To initially test whether HCV replication could be affected in trans, complementation studies were conducted in which defective replicon RNAs carrying a luciferase reporter were introduced into stable cells bearing functional replicons. The NS3 protease and the NS5B viral polymerase genes on the transfected replicons were rendered null by active site mutations and shown not to be complemented in trans by functional proteins expressed from the endogenous replicons. A new strategy was also developed to examine whether adapted copies of NS4B and NS5A could enhance the replication of transfected replicons carrying non-adapted genes. The replication efficiency of a replicon carrying two adaptive mutations in NS3 (E1202G and T1280I) had previously been shown to be greatly enhanced by the presence of a third mutation in either NS4B (K1846T) or NS5A (S2197P). A partially adapted luciferase replicon carrying only the two NS3 mutations was used to transfect cells containing replicons bearing the adapted NS4B or NS5A. Using this approach, NS5A, but not NS4B, was found to trans-complement. In a final confirmatory study, ectopically expressed NS5A also complemented the HCV replicon genome bearing the non-adapted NS5A. These studies strongly suggest that HCV non-structural proteins, with the exception of NS5A, can only act in cis on the RNA from which they were translated.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: HCV drug discovery efforts have largely focused on genotype 1 virus due to its prevalence and relatively poor response to current therapy. However, patients infected with genotype 2 and 3 viruses account for a significant number of cases and would also benefit from new therapies. In vitro studies using two chemically distinct protease inhibitors with clinical potential showed that one, VX-950, was equally active on proteases from all three genotypes, whereas the other, BILN 2061, was significantly less active on genotype 2 and 3 proteases. Naturally occurring variation near the inhibitor binding site was identified based on sequence alignment of the protease region from genotype 1-3 sequences. Substitution of amino acids in genotype 1 based on genotype 2 and 3 has revealed residues which impact binding of BILN 2061. Substitution of residues 78-80, together with 122 and 132, accounted for most of the reduced sensitivity of genotype 2. The most critical position affecting inhibitor binding to genotype 3 protease was 168. Substitution of residues at positions 168, 123, and 132 fully accounted for the reduced sensitivity of genotype 3. Comparative studies of BILN 2061 and a closely related nonmacrocycle inhibitor suggested that the rigidity of BILN 2061, while conferring greater potency against genotype 1, rendered it more sensitive to variations near the binding site. Free energy perturbation analysis confirmed the experimental observations. The identification of naturally occurring variations which can affect inhibitor binding is an important step in the design of broad-spectrum, second generation protease inhibitors.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: We have discovered that introduction of appropriate amino acid derivatives at P'2 position improved the binding potency of P3-capped alpha-ketoamide inhibitors of HCV NS3 serine protease. X-ray crystal structure of one of the inhibitors (43) bound to the protease revealed the importance of the P'2 moiety.
No preview · Article · Nov 2005 · Bioorganic & Medicinal Chemistry Letters
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Most of the protein kinase inhibitors being developed are directed toward the adenosine triphosphate (ATP) binding site that is highly conserved in many kinases. A major issue with these inhibitors is the specificity for a given kinase. Structure determination of several kinases has shown that protein kinases adopt distinct conformations in their inactive state, in contrast to their strikingly similar conformations in their active states. Hence, alternative assay formats that can identify compounds targeting the inactive form of a protein kinase are desirable. The authors describe the development and optimization of an Immobilized Metal Assay for Phosphochemicals (IMAP)-based couple d assay using PDK1 and inactive Akt-2 enzymes. PDK1 phosphorylates Akt-2 at Thr 309 in the catalytic domain, leading to enzymatic activation. Activation of Akt by PDK1 is measured by quantitating the phosphorylation of Akt-specific substrate peptide using the IMAP assay format. This IMAP-coupled assay has been formatted in a 384-well microplate format with a Z' of 0.73 suitable for high-throughput screening. This assay was evaluated by screening the biologically active sample set LOPAC trade mark and validated with the protein kinase C inhibitor staurosporine. The IC(50) value generated was comparable to the value obtained by the radioactive (33)P-gamma-ATP flashplate transfer assay. This coupled assay has the potential to identify compounds that target the inactive form of Akt and prevent its activation by PDK1, in addition to finding inhibitors of PDK1 and activated Akt enzymes.
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Current assays for the activity of viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerases (RdRps) are inherently end-point measurements, often requiring the use of radiolabeled or chemically modified nucleotides to detect reaction products. In an effort to improve the characterization of polymerases that are essential to the life cycle of RNA viruses and develop antiviral therapies that target these enzymes, a continuous nonradioactive assay was developed to monitor the activity of RdRps by measuring the release of pyrophosphate (PP(i)) generated during nascent strand synthesis. A coupled-enzyme assay method based on the chemiluminescent detection of PP(i), using ATP sulfurylase and firefly luciferase, was adapted to monitor poliovirus 3D polymerase (3D(pol)) and the hepatitis C virus nonstructural protein 5B (NS5B) RdRp reactions. Light production was dependent on RdRp and sensitive to the concentration of oligonucleotide primer directing RNA synthesis. The assay system was found to be amenable to sensitive kinetic studies of RdRps, requiring only 6nM 3D(pol) to obtain a reliable estimate of the initial velocity in as little as 4 min. The assay can immediately accommodate the use of both homopolymer and heteropolymer RNA templates lacking uridylates and can be adapted to RNA templates containing uridine by substituting alpha-thio ATP for ATP. The low background signal produced by other NTPs can be corrected from no enzyme (RdRp) controls. The effect of RdRp/RNA template preincubation was assessed using NS5B and a homopolymer RNA template and a time-dependent increase of RdRp activity was observed. Progress curves for a chain terminator (3(')-deoxyguanosine 5(')-triphosphate) and an allosteric NS5B inhibitor demonstrated the predicted time- and dose-dependent reductions in signal. This assay should facilitate detailed kinetic studies of RdRps and their potential inhibitors using either standard or single-nucleotide approaches.
No preview · Article · Mar 2004 · Analytical Biochemistry
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Inspection of over 250 hepatitis C virus (HCV) genome sequences shows that a threonine is strictly conserved at the P1 position in the NS3-NS4A (NS3-4A) autoproteolysis junction, while a cysteine is maintained as the P1 residue in all of the putative trans cleavage sites (NS4A-4B, NS4B-5A, and NS5A-5B). To understand why T631 is conserved at the NS3-4A junction of HCV, a series of in vitro transcription-translation studies were carried out using wild-type and mutant (T631C) NS3-4A constructs bearing native, truncated, and mutant NS4A segments. The autocleavage of the wild-type junction was found to be dependent on the presence of the central cofactor domain of NS4A (residues 21 to 34). In contrast, all NS3-4A T631C mutant proteins underwent self-cleavage even in the absence of the cofactor. Subgenomic replicons derived from the Con1 strain of HCV and bearing the T631C mutation showed reduced levels of colony formation in transfection studies. Similarly, replicons derived from a second genotype 1b virus, HCV-N, demonstrated a comparable reduction in replication efficiency in transient-transfection assays. These data suggest that the threonine is conserved at position 631 because it serves two functions: (i) to slow processing at the NS3-4A cleavage site, ensuring proper intercalation of the NS4A cofactor with NS3 prior to polyprotein scission, and (ii) to prevent subsequent product inhibition by the NS3 C terminus.
Preview · Article · Feb 2004 · Journal of Virology
[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The recent development of in vitro hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA replication systems has provided useful tools for studying the intracellular anti-HCV activity of ribavirin. Ribavirin has been shown to: (1) induce "error catastrophe" in poliovirus, Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 98, 6895-6900), (2) be a pseudo-substrate of the HCV RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) in vitro, J. Biol. Chem. 276, 46094-46098), and (3) increase mutations in HCV RNA in the binary T7 polymerase/HCV cDNA replication system, J. Virol. 76, 8505-8517). These findings have led to the hypothesis that ribavirin may also induce error catastrophe in HCV. However, the functional relevance of ribavirin-induced HCV RNA mutagenesis is unclear. By use of a colony formation assay, in which RNA is isolated from the HCV subgenomic replicon system following treatment, the impact of ribavirin, inosine-5'-monophosphate dehydrogenase (IMPDH) inhibitors, and the combination was assessed. Ribavirin reduced HCV replicon colony-forming efficiency (CFE) in a dose-dependent fashion, suggesting that ribavirin may be misincorporated into replicon RNA and result in an anti-replicon effect analogous to error catastrophe. This effect was markedly suppressed by addition of exogenous guanosine. Combination treatment with ribavirin and mycophenolic acid (MPA) or VX-497, both potent, nonnucleoside IMPDH inhibitors, led to a greatly enhanced anti-replicon effect. This enhancement was reversed by inclusion of guanosine with the treatment. In contrast, MPA or VX-497 alone had only marginal effects on both the quantity and quality (CFE) of replicon RNA, suggesting that although IMPDH inhibition is an important contributing factor to the overall ribavirin anti-HCV replicon activity, IMPDH inhibition by itself is not sufficient to exert an anti-HCV effect. Sequencing data targeting the neo gene segment of the HCV replicon indicated that ribavirin together with MPA or VX-497 increased the replicon error rate by about two-fold. Taken together these results further suggest that lethal mutagenesis may be an effective anti-HCV strategy. The colony formation assay provides a useful tool for evaluating mutagenic nucleoside analogs for HCV therapy. Finally, the data from combination treatment indicate potential therapeutic value for an enhanced anti-HCV effect when using ribavirin in combination with IMPDH inhibition.