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Preprint | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-296676


The cell entry of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged as an attractive drug development target. We previously reported that the entry of SARS-CoV-2 depends on the cell surface heparan sulfate proteoglycan (HSPG) and the cortex actin, which can be targeted by therapeutic agents identified by conventional drug repurposing screens. However, this drug identification strategy requires laborious library screening, which is time-consuming and often limited number of compounds can be screened. As an alternative approach, we developed and trained a graph convolutional network (GCN)-based classification model using information extracted from experimentally identified HSPG and actin inhibitors. This method allowed us to virtually screen 170,000 compounds, resulting in ~2000 potential hits. A hit confirmation assay with the uptake of a fluorescently labeled HSPG cargo further shortlisted 256 active compounds. Among them, 16 compounds had modest to strong inhibitory activities against the entry of SARS-CoV-2 pseudotyped particles into Vero E6 cells. These results establish a GCN-based virtual screen workflow for rapid identification of new small molecule inhibitors against validated drug targets.

Cell Discov ; 6(1): 80, 2020 Nov 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-912895


The cell entry of SARS-CoV-2 has emerged as an attractive drug repurposing target for COVID-19. Here we combine genetics and chemical perturbation to demonstrate that ACE2-mediated entry of SARS-Cov and CoV-2 requires the cell surface heparan sulfate (HS) as an assisting cofactor: ablation of genes involved in HS biosynthesis or incubating cells with a HS mimetic both inhibit Spike-mediated viral entry. We show that heparin/HS binds to Spike directly, and facilitates the attachment of Spike-bearing viral particles to the cell surface to promote viral entry. We screened approved drugs and identified two classes of inhibitors that act via distinct mechanisms to target this entry pathway. Among the drugs characterized, Mitoxantrone is a potent HS inhibitor, while Sunitinib and BNTX disrupt the actin network to indirectly abrogate HS-assisted viral entry. We further show that drugs of the two classes can be combined to generate a synergized activity against SARS-CoV-2-induced cytopathic effect. Altogether, our study establishes HS as an attachment factor that assists SARS coronavirus cell entry and reveals drugs capable of targeting this important step in the viral life cycle.