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European journal of medicinal chemistry ; 2022.
Article in English | EuropePMC | ID: covidwho-2072979


Although vaccines are greatly mitigating the worldwide pandemic diffusion of SARS-Cov-2, therapeutics should provide many distinct advantages as complementary approach to control the viral spreading. Here, we report the development of new tripeptide derivatives of AT1001 against SARS-CoV-2 Mpro. By molecular modeling, a small compound library was rationally designed and filtered for enzymatic inhibition through FRET assay, leading to the identification of compound 4. X-ray crystallography studies provide insights into its binding mode and confirm the formation of a covalent bond with Mpro C145. In vitro antiviral tests indicate the improvement of biological activity of 4. In silico and X-ray crystallography analysis led to 58, showing a promising activity against three SARS-CoV-2 variants and a valuable safety in Vero cells and human embryonic lung fibroblasts. The drug tolerance was also confirmed by in vivo studies, along with pharmacokinetics evaluation. In summary, 58 could pave the way to develop a clinical candidate for intranasal administration. Graphical Image 1

Int J Mol Sci ; 22(17)2021 Aug 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1379977


A novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has been identified as the pathogen responsible for the outbreak of a severe, rapidly developing pneumonia (Coronavirus disease 2019, COVID-19). The virus enzyme, called 3CLpro or main protease (Mpro), is essential for viral replication, making it a most promising target for antiviral drug development. Recently, we adopted the drug repurposing as appropriate strategy to give fast response to global COVID-19 epidemic, by demonstrating that the zonulin octapeptide inhibitor AT1001 (Larazotide acetate) binds Mpro catalytic domain. Thus, in the present study we tried to investigate the antiviral activity of AT1001, along with five derivatives, by cell-based assays. Our results provide with the identification of AT1001 peptide molecular framework for lead optimization step to develop new generations of antiviral agents of SARS-CoV-2 with an improved biological activity, expanding the chance for success in clinical trials.

Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Molecular Docking Simulation , Oligopeptides/chemistry , Peptides/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Antiviral Agents/metabolism , Antiviral Agents/therapeutic use , Binding Sites , COVID-19/drug therapy , COVID-19/virology , Catalytic Domain , Cell Line , Cytomegalovirus/drug effects , Drug Repositioning , Herpesvirus 3, Human/drug effects , Humans , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , Peptides/chemical synthesis , Peptides/pharmacology , Peptides/therapeutic use , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Viral Matrix Proteins/chemistry , Viral Matrix Proteins/metabolism
Front Chem ; 8: 628609, 2020.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1058409


The most severe outcome of COVID-19 infection is the development of interstitial pneumonia causing acute lung injury (ALI) and/or acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS), both responsible for the infected patients' mortality. ALI and ARDS are characterized by a leakage of plasma components into the lungs, compromising their ability to expand and optimally engage in gas exchange with blood, resulting in respiratory failure. We have previously reported that zonulin, a protein dictating epithelial and endothelial permeability in several districts, including the airways, is involved in ALI pathogenesis in mouse models, and that its peptide inhibitor Larazotide acetate (also called AT1001) ameliorated ALI and subsequent mortality by decreasing mucosal permeability to fluid and extravasation of neutrophils into the lungs. With the recent crystallographic resolution of the SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro), an enzyme fundamental in the viral lifecycle, bound to peptidomimetic inhibitors N3 and 13b, we were able to perform molecular modeling investigation showing that AT1001 presents structural motifs similar to co-crystallized ligands. Specifically, molecular docking, MM-GBSA-based predictions and molecular dynamics showed that AT1001 docks extremely well in the Mpro catalytic domain through a global turn conformational arrangement without any unfavorable steric hindrance. Finally, we have observed that AT1001 can be superimposed onto the crystallized structures of N3 and 13b, establishing a higher number of interactions and accordingly a tighter binding. In vitro studies confirmed AT1001 anti-Mpro and preliminary investigation indicted an anti-viral activity. Combined, these studies suggest that AT1001, besides its well-demonstrated effect in ameliorating mucosal permeability in ALI/ARDS, may also exert a direct anti-SARS-CoV-2 effect by blocking the Mpro. AT1001 has been used extensively in a variety of animal models of ALI demonstrating robust safety and efficacy; it is currently in phase 3 trials in celiac subjects showing strong safety and efficacy profiles. We therefore propose its use as a specific anti-SARS-CoV-2 multitargeting treatment for the current pandemic.