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Chem Sci ; 13(13): 3674-3687, 2022 Mar 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1778651


We report a fast-track computationally driven discovery of new SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) inhibitors whose potency ranges from mM for the initial non-covalent ligands to sub-µM for the final covalent compound (IC50 = 830 ± 50 nM). The project extensively relied on high-resolution all-atom molecular dynamics simulations and absolute binding free energy calculations performed using the polarizable AMOEBA force field. The study is complemented by extensive adaptive sampling simulations that are used to rationalize the different ligand binding poses through the explicit reconstruction of the ligand-protein conformation space. Machine learning predictions are also performed to predict selected compound properties. While simulations extensively use high performance computing to strongly reduce the time-to-solution, they were systematically coupled to nuclear magnetic resonance experiments to drive synthesis and for in vitro characterization of compounds. Such a study highlights the power of in silico strategies that rely on structure-based approaches for drug design and allows the protein conformational multiplicity problem to be addressed. The proposed fluorinated tetrahydroquinolines open routes for further optimization of Mpro inhibitors towards low nM affinities.

Acta Crystallogr D Struct Biol ; 78(Pt 3): 363-378, 2022 Mar 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1758984


The SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro) has a pivotal role in mediating viral genome replication and transcription of the coronavirus, making it a promising target for drugs against the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, a crystal structure is presented in which Mpro adopts an inactive state that has never been observed before, called new-inactive. It is shown that the oxyanion loop, which is involved in substrate recognition and enzymatic activity, adopts a new catalytically incompetent conformation and that many of the key interactions of the active conformation of the enzyme around the active site are lost. Solvation/desolvation energetic contributions play an important role in the transition from the inactive to the active state, with Phe140 moving from an exposed to a buried environment and Asn142 moving from a buried environment to an exposed environment. In new-inactive Mpro a new cavity is present near the S2' subsite, and the N-terminal and C-terminal tails, as well as the dimeric interface, are perturbed, with partial destabilization of the dimeric assembly. This novel conformation is relevant both for comprehension of the mechanism of action of Mpro within the catalytic cycle and for the successful structure-based drug design of antiviral drugs.

COVID-19/virology , Coronavirus 3C Proteases/chemistry , SARS-CoV-2/chemistry , Catalytic Domain , Crystallography, X-Ray , Humans , Models, Molecular , Protein Conformation , Protein Multimerization