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mBio ; 12(2)2021 03 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1522913


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a recently emerged virus that causes coronavirus infectious disease 2019 (COVID-19). SARS-CoV-2 spike protein, like SARS-CoV-1, uses the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a cellular receptor to initiate infection. Compounds that interfere with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain protein (RBD)-ACE2 receptor interaction may function as entry inhibitors. Here, we used a dual strategy of molecular docking and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) screening of compound libraries to identify those that bind to human ACE2 or the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD). Molecular modeling screening interrogated 57,641 compounds and focused on the region of ACE2 that is engaged by RBD of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and vice versa. SPR screening used immobilized human ACE2 and SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein to evaluate the binding of these proteins to a library of 3,141 compounds. These combined screens identified compounds from these libraries that bind at KD (equilibrium dissociation constant) <3 µM affinity to their respective targets, 17 for ACE2 and 6 for SARS-CoV-2 RBD. Twelve ACE2 binders and six of the RBD binders compete with the RBD-ACE2 interaction in an SPR-based competition assay. These compounds included registered drugs and dyes used in biomedical applications. A Vero-E6 cell-based SARS-CoV-2 infection assay was used to evaluate infection blockade by candidate entry inhibitors. Three compounds demonstrated dose-dependent antiviral in vitro potency-Evans blue, sodium lifitegrast, and lumacaftor. This study has identified potential drugs for repurposing as SARS-CoV-2 entry inhibitors or as chemical scaffolds for drug development.IMPORTANCE SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, has caused more than 60 million cases worldwide with almost 1.5 million deaths as of November 2020. Repurposing existing drugs is the most rapid path to clinical intervention for emerging diseases. Using an in silico screen of 57,641 compounds and a biophysical screen of 3,141 compounds, we identified 22 compounds that bound to either the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and/or the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein receptor binding domain (SARS-CoV-2 spike protein RBD). Nine of these drugs were identified by both screening methods. Three of the identified compounds, Evans blue, sodium lifitegrast, and lumacaftor, were found to inhibit viral replication in a Vero-E6 cell-based SARS-CoV-2 infection assay and may have utility as repurposed therapeutics. All 22 identified compounds provide scaffolds for the development of new chemical entities for the treatment of COVID-19.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19 Drug Treatment , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Attachment/drug effects , Virus Replication/drug effects , Aminopyridines/pharmacology , Animals , Benzodioxoles/pharmacology , Cell Line , Chlorocebus aethiops , Drug Evaluation, Preclinical , Drug Repositioning , Evans Blue/pharmacology , Humans , Molecular Docking Simulation , Phenylalanine/analogs & derivatives , Phenylalanine/pharmacology , Protein Binding/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Sulfones/pharmacology , Surface Plasmon Resonance , Vero Cells
Clin Transl Immunology ; 10(3): e1260, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1120050


OBJECTIVES: A major COVID-19 vaccine strategy is to induce antibodies that prevent interaction between the Spike protein's receptor-binding domain (RBD) and angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). These vaccines will also induce T-cell responses. However, concerns were raised that aberrant vaccine-induced immune responses may exacerbate disease. We aimed to identify minimal epitopes on the RBD that would induce antibody responses that block the interaction of the RBD and ACE2 as a strategy leading to an effective vaccine with reduced risk of inducing immunopathology. METHODS: We procured a series of overlapping 20-amino acid peptides spanning the RBD and asked which were recognised by plasma from COVID-19 convalescent patients. Identified epitopes were conjugated to diphtheria-toxoid and used to vaccinate mice. Immune sera were tested for binding to the RBD and for their ability to block the interaction of the RBD and ACE2. RESULTS: Seven putative vaccine epitopes were identified. Memory B-cells (MBCs) specific for one of the epitopes were identified in the blood of convalescent patients. When used to vaccinate mice, six induced antibodies that bound recRBD and three induced antibodies that could partially block the interaction of the RBD and ACE2. However, when the sera were combined in pairs, we observed significantly enhanced inhibition of binding of RBD to ACE2. Two of the peptides were located in the main regions of the RBD known to contact ACE2. Of significant importance to vaccine development, two of the peptides were in regions that are invariant in the UK and South African strains. CONCLUSION: COVID-19 convalescent patients have SARS-CoV-2-specific antibodies and MBCs, the specificities of which can be defined with short peptides. Epitope-specific antibodies synergistically block RBD-ACE2 interaction.