In this review, we will discuss drug design based on proven and potential anti-influenza drug targets including viral hemagglutinin (HA), neuraminidase (NA), M2 ion channel, 3P polymerase complex, and host factors such as kinases. We have summarized influenza inhibitors based on their mode of actions. For instance, included are descriptions of (1) inhibitors of HA cleavage, such as nafamostat, camostat, gabexate, epsilon-aminocapronic acid and aprotinin, (2) inhibitors of fusion and entry, such as benzoquinones and hydroquinones, CL 385319, BMY-27709, stachyflin, and their analogues, (3) inhibitors of viral RNPs/ polymerase/endonuclease, such as T-705, L-735,822, flutimide and their analogues, (4) inhibitors of MEK, such as PD 0325901, CI-1040 and ARRY-142886, and (5) inhibitors of NA such as DANA, FANA, zanamivir, and oseltamivir, etc. Although amantadine and rimantadine are not recommended for treating influenza virus infections because of drug resistance problem, these viral M2 ion channel blockers established a proof-of-concept that the endocytosis of virion into host cells can be a valid drug target because M2 protein is involved in the endocytosis process. The influenza polymerase complex not only catalyzes RNA polymerization but also encodes the "cap snatching" activity. After being exported from the nucleus to the cytoplasm, the newly synthesized vRNPs are assembled into virions at the plasma membrane. The progeny virions will then leave the host cells through the action of NA. The strategies for discovery of small molecule inhibitors of influenza virus replication based on each particular mechanism will be discussed. Finally, the lessons learned from the design of NA inhibitors (NAI) are also included. Many exciting opportunities await the cadre of virologists, medicinal chemists, and pharmacologists to design novel influenza drugs with favorable pharmacological and pharmacokinetic properties to combat this threatening infectious disease.
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