Phosphorothioate-modified oligodeoxynucleotides inhibit human cytomegalovirus replication by blocking virus entry

Anna Luganini, Patrizia Caposio, Santo Landolfo, Giorgio Gribaudo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Scopus citations


Studies in animal models have provided evidence that Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9) agonists, such as synthetic oligodeoxynucleotides (ODNs) that contain immunostimulatory deoxycytidyl-deoxyguanosine (CpG) motifs (CpG ODNs), protect against a wide range of viral pathogens. This antiviral activity has been suggested to be indirect and secondary to CpG-induced cytokines and inflammatory responses triggered through TLR9 activation. However, few studies have addressed the potential of CpG ODNs as direct antiviral agents. Here, we report on the ability of some CpG ODNs to directly suppress, almost completely, human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) replication in both primary fibroblasts and endothelial cells. Murine CMV replication was inhibited as well, whereas no inhibition was observed for herpes simplex virus type 1, adenovirus, or vesicular stomatitis virus. The antiviral activity of these ODNs was significantly reduced when they were added after virus adsorption, indicating that their action may be primarily targeted to the very early phases of the HCMV cycle. In fact, the B-class prototype CpG ODN 2006 effectively prevented the nuclear localization of pp65 and input viral DNA, which suggests that it inhibits HCMV entry. Moreover, a CpG 2006 control, ODN 2137 without CpG motifs, also showed a potent inhibitory activity on the HCMV entry phase, indicating that the anticytomegaloviral activity is independent of the CpG motif. In contrast, a phosphodiester version of CpG 2006 showed reduced antiviral activity, indicating that the inhibitory activity is dependent on the phosphorothioate backbone of the ODN. These results suggest that this yet-unrecognized activity of CpG ODNs may be of interest in the development of novel anticytomegaloviral molecules.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1111-1120
Number of pages10
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2008
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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