Pharmacological inhibition of TBK1/IKKε blunts immunopathology in a murine model of SARS-CoV-2 infection

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TANK-binding kinase 1 (TBK1) is a key signalling component in the production of type-I interferons, which have essential antiviral activities, including against SARS-CoV-2. TBK1, and its homologue IκB kinase-ε (IKKε), can also induce pro-inflammatory responses that contribute to pathogen clearance. While initially protective, sustained engagement of type-I interferons is associated with damaging hyper-inflammation found in severe COVID-19 patients. The contribution of TBK1/IKKε signalling to these responses is unknown. Here we find that the small molecule idronoxil inhibits TBK1/IKKε signalling through destabilisation of TBK1/IKKε protein complexes. Treatment with idronoxil, or the small molecule inhibitor MRT67307, suppresses TBK1/IKKε signalling and attenuates cellular and molecular lung inflammation in SARS-CoV-2-challenged mice. Our findings additionally demonstrate that engagement of STING is not the major driver of these inflammatory responses and establish a critical role for TBK1/IKKε signalling in SARS-CoV-2 hyper-inflammation.

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Volume 14
Issue number 1
Pages 5666
Available online
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