Select Page

## Targeted intracellular degradation of SARS-CoV-2 via computationally optimized peptide fusions

Pranam Chatterjee, Manvitha Ponnapati, Christian Kramme, Alexandru M Plesa, George M Church, Joseph M Jacobson, Commun Biol. 2020 Nov 23;3(1):715.

Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, has elicited a global health crisis of catastrophic proportions. With only a few vaccines approved for early or limited use, there is a critical need for effective antiviral strategies. In this study, we report a unique antiviral platform, through computational design of ACE2-derived peptides which both target the viral spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) and recruit E3 ubiquitin ligases for subsequent intracellular degradation of SARS-CoV-2 in the proteasome. Our engineered peptide fusions demonstrate robust RBD degradation capabilities in human cells and are capable of inhibiting infection-competent viral production, thus prompting their further experimental characterization and therapeutic development.

## In Silico Discovery of Antimicrobial Peptides as an Alternative to Control SARS-CoV-2

Yamil Liscano, Jose Oñate-Garzón, Iván Darío Ocampo-Ibáñez, Molecules. 2020 Nov 25;25(23):E5535.

Abstract

A serious pandemic has been caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The interaction between spike surface viral protein (Sgp) and the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) cellular receptor is essential to understand the SARS-CoV-2 infectivity and pathogenicity. Currently, no drugs are available to treat the infection caused by this coronavirus and the use of antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) may be a promising alternative therapeutic strategy to control SARS-CoV-2. In this study, we investigated the in silico interaction of AMPs with viral structural proteins and host cell receptors. We screened the antimicrobial peptide database (APD3) and selected 15 peptides based on their physicochemical and antiviral properties. The interactions of AMPs with Sgp and ACE2 were performed by docking analysis. The results revealed that two amphibian AMPs, caerin 1.6 and caerin 1.10, had the highest affinity for Sgp proteins while interaction with the ACE2 receptor was reduced. The effective AMPs interacted particularly with Arg995 located in the S2 subunits of Sgp, which is key subunit that plays an essential role in viral fusion and entry into the host cell through ACE2. Given these computational findings, new potentially effective AMPs with antiviral properties for SARS-CoV-2 were identified, but they need experimental validation for their therapeutic effectiveness.

## Targeting the SARS-CoV-2 main protease using FDA-approved Isavuconazonium, a P2-P3 α-ketoamide derivative and Pentagastrin: An in-silico drug discovery approach

Ikechukwu Achilonu, Emmanuel Amarachi Iwuchukwu, Okechinyere Juliet Achilonu, Manuel Antonio Fernandes, Yasien Sayed, J Mol Graph Model. 2020 Dec;101:107730.

doi: 10.1016/j.jmgm.2020.107730. Epub 2020 Sep 2.

Abstract

The SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) is an attractive target towards discovery of drugs to treat COVID-19 because of its key role in virus replication. The atomic structure of Mpro in complex with an α-ketoamide inhibitor (Lig13b) is available (PDB ID:6Y2G). Using 6Y2G and the prior knowledge that protease inhibitors could eradicate COVID-19, we designed a computational study aimed at identifying FDA-approved drugs that could interact with Mpro. We searched the DrugBank and PubChem for analogs and built a virtual library containing ∼33,000 conformers. Using high-throughput virtual screening and ligand docking, we identified Isavuconazonium, a ketoamide inhibitor (α-KI) and Pentagastrin as the top three molecules (Lig13b as the benchmark) based on docking energy. The ΔGbind of Lig13b, Isavuconazonium, α-KI, Pentagastrin was -28.1, -45.7, -44.7, -34.8 kcal/mol, respectively. Molecular dynamics simulation revealed that these ligands are stable within the Mpro active site. Binding of these ligands is driven by a variety of non-bonded interaction, including polar bonds, H-bonds, van der Waals and salt bridges. The overall conformational dynamics of the complexed-Mpro was slightly altered relative to apo-Mpro. This study demonstrates that three distinct classes molecules, Isavuconazonium (triazole), α-KI (ketoamide) and Pentagastrin (peptide) could serve as potential drugs to treat patients with COVID-19.

## Investigation of beta-lactoglobulin derived bioactive peptides against SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19): in silico analysis

Bilal Çakır, Betül Okuyan, Göksel Şener, Tuğba Tunalı-Akbay, Eur J Pharmacol. 2020 Nov 30;891:173781.

doi: 10.1016/j.ejphar.2020.173781. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The coronavirus disease of 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which started in late 2019 in Wuhan, China spread to the whole world in a short period of time, and thousands of people have died due to this epidemic. Although scientists have been searching for methods to manage SARS-CoV-2, there is no specific medication against COVID-19 as of yet. Two main approaches should be followed in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2; one of which is to neutralize the virus, and the other is to inhibit the host cell membrane receptors, where SARS-CoV-2 will bind. In this study, peptides derived from beta-lactoglobulin, which inactivates both the virus and its receptors in the host cell, were identified using computer-based in silico analysis. The beta-lactoglobulin derived peptides used in this study were obtained by the treatment of goat milk whey fraction with trypsin. The structure of the peptides was characterized by the liquid chromatography quadrupole time-of-flight mass spectrometry (LC-Q-TOF/MS), and six beta-lactoglobulin derived peptides were selected as candidate peptides. Subsequently, the effects of peptides on SARS-CoV-2 and host cells were identified using virtual screening. According to the results of this in silico analysis, Ala-Leu-Pro-Met-His-Ile-Arg (ALMPHIR) and Ile-Pro-Ala-Val-Phe-Lys (IPAVFK) peptides were evaluated as potential candidates to be used in the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 after the future in vitro and in vivo studies.

## A natural food preservative peptide nisin can interact with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor human ACE2

Rajarshi Bhattacharya, Aayatti Mallick Gupta, Suranjita Mitra, Sukhendu Mandal, Swadesh R Biswas, Virology2021 Jan 2;552:107-111.

doi: 10.1016/j.virol.2020.10.002. Epub 2020 Oct 28.

Abstract

Nisin, a food-grade antimicrobial peptide produced by lactic acid bacteria has been examined for its probable interaction with the human ACE2 (hACE2) receptor, the site where spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 binds. Among the eight nisin variants examined, nisin H, nisin Z, nisin U and nisin A showed a significant binding affinity towards hACE2, higher than that of the RBD (receptor binding domain) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. The molecular interaction of nisin with hACE2 was investigated by homology modeling and docking studies. Further, binding efficiency of the most potent nisin H was evaluated through the interaction of hACE2:nisin H complex with RBD (receptor-binding domain) of SARS-CoV-2 and that of hACE2:RBD complex with nisin H. Here, nisin H acted as a potential competitor of RBD to access the hACE2 receptor. The study unravels for the first time that a globally used food preservative, nisin has the potential to bind to hACE2.

# Dalbavancin binds ACE2 to block its interaction with SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and is effective in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 infection in animal models

Gan Wang, Meng-Li Yang, Zi-Lei Duan, Feng-Liang Liu, Lin Jin, Cheng-Bo Long, Min Zhang, Xiao-Peng Tang, Ling Xu, Ying-Chang Li, Peter Muiruri Kamau, Lian Yang, Hong-Qi Liu, Jing-Wen Xu, Jie-Kai Chen, Yong-Tang Zheng, Xiao-Zhong Peng, Ren Lai, Cell Res. 2020 Dec 1;1-8.

doi: 10.1038/s41422-020-00450-0. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

Infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a pandemic worldwide. Currently, however, no effective drug or vaccine is available to treat or prevent the resulting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here, we report our discovery of a promising anti-COVID-19 drug candidate, the lipoglycopeptide antibiotic dalbavancin, based on virtual screening of the FDA-approved peptide drug library combined with in vitro and in vivo functional antiviral assays. Our results showed that dalbavancin directly binds to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) with high affinity, thereby blocking its interaction with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Furthermore, dalbavancin effectively prevents SARS-CoV-2 replication in Vero E6 cells with an EC50 of ~12 nM. In both mouse and rhesus macaque models, viral replication and histopathological injuries caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection are significantly inhibited by dalbavancin administration. Given its high safety and long plasma half-life (8-10 days) shown in previous clinical trials, our data indicate that dalbavancin is a promising anti-COVID-19 drug candidate.

# Identification and validation of 174 COVID-19 vaccine candidate epitopes reveals low performance of common epitope prediction tools

Marek Prachar, Sune Justesen, Daniel Bisgaard Steen-Jensen, Stephan Thorgrimsen, Erik Jurgons, Ole Winther, Frederik Otzen Bagger, Sci Rep. 2020 Nov 24;10(1):20465.

Abstract

The outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 (2019-nCoV) virus has highlighted the need for fast and efficacious vaccine development. Stimulation of a proper immune response that leads to protection is highly dependent on presentation of epitopes to circulating T-cells via the HLA complex. SARS-CoV-2 is a large RNA virus and testing of all of its overlapping peptides in vitro to deconvolute an immune response is not feasible. Therefore HLA-binding prediction tools are often used to narrow down the number of peptides to test. We tested NetMHC suite tools’ predictions by using an in vitro peptide-MHC stability assay. We assessed 777 peptides that were predicted to be good binders across 11 MHC alleles in a complex-stability assay and tested a selection of 19 epitope-HLA-binding prediction tools against the assay. In this investigation of potential SARS-CoV-2 epitopes we found that current prediction tools vary in performance when assessing binding stability, and they are highly dependent on the MHC allele in question. Designing a COVID-19 vaccine where only a few epitope targets are included is therefore a very challenging task. Here, we present 174 SARS-CoV-2 epitopes with high prediction binding scores, validated to bind stably to 11 HLA alleles. Our findings may contribute to the design of an efficacious vaccine against COVID-19.

# Toward COVID-19 Therapeutics: A Viewpoint from the Nonprotein Amino Acid Based Synthetic Peptide Design Approach

Sayan Bhattacharjee, ACS Chem Neurosci. 2020 Nov 18;11(22):3701-3703.

doi: 10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00661. Epub 2020 Nov 3.

Abstract

Cell entry, the fundamental step in cross-species transmission of SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2), is initiated by the recognition of the host cell angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor by the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. To date, several peptides have been proposed against SARS-CoV-2 both as inhibitor agents or as detection tools that can also be attached to the surfaces of nanoparticle carriers. But owing to their natural amino acid sequences, such peptides cannot be considered as efficient therapeutic candidates from a biostability point of view. This discussion demonstrates the design strategy of synthetic nonprotein amino acid substituted peptides with enhanced biostability and binding affinity, the implication of which can make those peptides potential therapeutic agents for inhibition and simple detection tools.

# Probiotics-Derived Peptides and Their Immunomodulatory Molecules Can Play a Preventive Role Against Viral Diseases Including COVID-19

Sounik Manna, Trinath Chowdhury, Ranadhir Chakraborty, Santi M Mandal, Probiotics Antimicrob Proteins2020 Nov 23;1-13.

Abstract

As of recent, the pandemic episode of COVID-19, a severe acute respiratory syndrome brought about by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) expanding the pace of mortality, has affected the disease rate profoundly. Invulnerability is the fundamental choice to prevent the ruining event of COVID-19, as the drugs and antibodies are in the phase of preliminary clinical trials. Within this brief period, a few strains of SARS-CoV-2 have been recognized by the vaccine manufacturers, which could be an incorrect guess about the strain that will end up spreading. Since the circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains continue to mutate, immunizations, if at all works, might be for a restricted time. We have not put sufficient time in research to understand the immune responses that correlate with protection as this could help refine vaccines. Here, we have summed up the adequacy of the immunomodulatory component of probiotics for the prevention against viral infections. Furthermore, an in silico data have been provided in support of the “probiotics-derived lipopeptides” role in inactivating spike (S) glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 and its host receptor molecule, ACE2. Among well characterized lipopeptides derived from different probiotic strains, subtilisin (Bacillus amyloliquefaciens), curvacin A (Lactobacillus curvatus), sakacin P (Lactobacillus sakei), lactococcin Gb (Lactococcus lactis) was utilized in this study to demonstrate a higher binding proclivity to S-protein of SARS-CoV-2 and human ACE2. The outcome revealed noteworthy capabilities of the lipopeptides, due to their amphiphilic nature, to bind spike protein and receptor molecule, which may act to competitively inhibit the mandatory interaction of SARS-CoV-2 with the host epithelial cell expressing ACE2 for its entry into the cell for reproduction. In the current situation, probiotic treatment alongside chemotherapy may assist in bringing about substantial improvement of the health of COVID-19 patients. At the same time, probiotics may aid towards building up the immune defenses in people to evade COVID-19.

# Evolutionary artificial intelligence based peptide discoveries for effective Covid-19 therapeutics

Ritika Kabra, Shailza Singh, Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Basis Dis. 2021 Jan 1;1867(1):165978.