Pharmacological modulators of autophagy as a potential strategy for the treatment of covid-19

Gustavo José da Silva Pereira, Anderson Henrique França Figueredo Leão, Adolfo Garcia Erustes, Ingrid Beatriz de Melo Morais, Talita Aparecida de Moraes Vrechi, Lucas Dos Santos Zamarioli, Cássia Arruda Souza Pereira, Laís de Oliveira Marchioro, Letícia Paulino Sperandio, Ísis Valeska Freire Lins, Mauro Piacentini, Gian Maria Fimia, Patrícia Reckziegel, Soraya Soubhi Smaili, Claudia Bincoletto

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


The family of coronaviruses (CoVs) uses the autophagy machinery of host cells to promote their growth and replication; thus, this process stands out as a potential target to combat COVID-19. Considering the different roles of autophagy during viral infection, including SARS-CoV-2 infection, in this review, we discuss several clinically used drugs that have effects at different stages of autophagy. Among them, we mention (1) lysosomotropic agents, which can prevent CoVs infection by alkalinizing the acid pH in the endolysosomal system, such as chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, azithromycin, artemisinins, two-pore channel modulators and imatinib; (2) protease inhibitors that can inhibit the proteolytic cleavage of the spike CoVs protein, which is necessary for viral entry into host cells, such as camostat mesylate, lopinavir, umifenovir and teicoplanin and (3) modulators of PI3K/AKT/mTOR signaling pathways, such as rapamycin, heparin, glucocorticoids, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (IECAs) and cannabidiol. Thus, this review aims to highlight and discuss autophagy-related drugs for COVID-19, from in vitro to in vivo studies. We identified specific compounds that may modulate autophagy and exhibit antiviral properties. We hope that research initiatives and efforts will identify novel or “off-label” drugs that can be used to effectively treat patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, reducing the risk of mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number4067
Pages (from-to)1-36
Number of pages36
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2 2021


  • Autophagy
  • COVID-19
  • Pharmacology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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