Discovery of small molecule entry inhibitors targeting the linoleic acid binding pocket of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein

Journal of Biomolecular Structure and Dynamics   | 23 March 2024 | DOI: 10.1080/07391102.2024.2327537

Roshny Prasad, Anil Kadam, Vinitha Vinod Padippurackal, Aparna Pulikuttymadom Balasubramanian, Naveen Kumar Chandrakumaran, Kartik Suresh Rangari, Pawan Dnyaneshwar Khangar, Harikrishnan Ajith, Kathiresan Natarajan, Rajesh Chandramohanadas & Shijulal Nelson-Sathi


Spike glycoprotein has a significant role in the entry of SARS-CoV-2 to host cells, which makes it a potential drug target. Continued accumulation of non-synonymous mutations in the receptor binding domain of spike protein poses great challenges in identifying antiviral drugs targeting this protein. This study aims to identify potential entry inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 using virtual screening and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations from three distinct chemical libraries including Pandemic Response Box, Drugbank and DrugCentral, comprising 6971 small molecules. The molecules were screened against a binding pocket identified in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) region of the spike protein which is known as the linoleic acid binding pocket, a highly conserved motif among several SARS-CoV-2 variants. Through virtual screening and binding free energy calculations, we identified four top-scoring compounds, MMV1579787 ([2-Oxo-2-[2-(3-phenoxyphenyl)ethylamino]ethyl]phosphonic acid), Tretinoin, MMV1633963 ((2E,4E)-5-[3-(3,5-dichlorophenoxy)phenyl]penta-2,4-dienoic acid) and Polydatin, which were previously reported to have antibacterial, antifungal or antiviral properties. These molecules showed stable binding on MD simulations over 100 ns and maintained stable interactions with TYR365, PHE338, PHE342, PHE377, TYR369, PHE374 and LEU368 of the spike protein RBD that are found to be conserved among SARS-CoV-2 variants. Our findings were further validated with free energy landscape, principal component analysis and dynamic cross-correlation analysis. Our in silico analysis of binding mode and MD simulation analyses suggest that the identified compounds may impede viral entrance by interacting with the linoleic acid binding site of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 regardless of its variants, and they thus demand for further in vitro and in vivo research.


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