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Biochem J ; 478(13): 2465-2479, 2021 07 16.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1290092


SARS-CoV-2 is responsible for COVID-19, a human disease that has caused over 2 million deaths, stretched health systems to near-breaking point and endangered economies of countries and families around the world. Antiviral treatments to combat COVID-19 are currently lacking. Remdesivir, the only antiviral drug approved for the treatment of COVID-19, can affect disease severity, but better treatments are needed. SARS-CoV-2 encodes 16 non-structural proteins (nsp) that possess different enzymatic activities with important roles in viral genome replication, transcription and host immune evasion. One key aspect of host immune evasion is performed by the uridine-directed endoribonuclease activity of nsp15. Here we describe the expression and purification of nsp15 recombinant protein. We have developed biochemical assays to follow its activity, and we have found evidence for allosteric behaviour. We screened a custom chemical library of over 5000 compounds to identify nsp15 endoribonuclease inhibitors, and we identified and validated NSC95397 as an inhibitor of nsp15 endoribonuclease in vitro. Although NSC95397 did not inhibit SARS-CoV-2 growth in VERO E6 cells, further studies will be required to determine the effect of nsp15 inhibition on host immune evasion.

Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Drug Evaluation, Preclinical , Endoribonucleases/antagonists & inhibitors , SARS-CoV-2/enzymology , Small Molecule Libraries/pharmacology , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/antagonists & inhibitors , Allosteric Regulation , Animals , Chlorocebus aethiops , Endoribonucleases/isolation & purification , Endoribonucleases/metabolism , Enzyme Assays , Fluorescence , High-Throughput Screening Assays , In Vitro Techniques , Kinetics , Naphthoquinones/pharmacology , Reproducibility of Results , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/growth & development , Small Molecule Libraries/chemistry , Solutions , Vero Cells , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/isolation & purification , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/metabolism
Biochem J ; 478(13): 2481-2497, 2021 07 16.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1289949


The COVID-19 pandemic has presented itself as one of the most critical public health challenges of the century, with SARS-CoV-2 being the third member of the Coronaviridae family to cause a fatal disease in humans. There is currently only one antiviral compound, remdesivir, that can be used for the treatment of COVID-19. To identify additional potential therapeutics, we investigated the enzymatic proteins encoded in the SARS-CoV-2 genome. In this study, we focussed on the viral RNA cap methyltransferases, which play key roles in enabling viral protein translation and facilitating viral escape from the immune system. We expressed and purified both the guanine-N7 methyltransferase nsp14, and the nsp16 2'-O-methyltransferase with its activating cofactor, nsp10. We performed an in vitro high-throughput screen for inhibitors of nsp14 using a custom compound library of over 5000 pharmaceutical compounds that have previously been characterised in either clinical or basic research. We identified four compounds as potential inhibitors of nsp14, all of which also showed antiviral capacity in a cell-based model of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Three of the four compounds also exhibited synergistic effects on viral replication with remdesivir.

Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Drug Evaluation, Preclinical , Exoribonucleases/antagonists & inhibitors , Methyltransferases/antagonists & inhibitors , RNA Caps/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/enzymology , Small Molecule Libraries/pharmacology , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/antagonists & inhibitors , Adenosine Monophosphate/analogs & derivatives , Adenosine Monophosphate/pharmacology , Alanine/analogs & derivatives , Alanine/pharmacology , Animals , Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Chlorobenzenes/pharmacology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Enzyme Assays , Exoribonucleases/genetics , Exoribonucleases/isolation & purification , Exoribonucleases/metabolism , Fluorescence Resonance Energy Transfer , High-Throughput Screening Assays , Indazoles/pharmacology , Indenes/pharmacology , Indoles/pharmacology , Methyltransferases/genetics , Methyltransferases/isolation & purification , Methyltransferases/metabolism , Nitriles/pharmacology , Phenothiazines/pharmacology , Purines/pharmacology , Reproducibility of Results , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Small Molecule Libraries/chemistry , Substrate Specificity , Trifluperidol/pharmacology , Vero Cells , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/genetics , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/isolation & purification , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/metabolism , Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins/genetics , Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins/isolation & purification , Viral Regulatory and Accessory Proteins/metabolism
PLoS One ; 16(4): e0250610, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1207634


To stop the COVID-19 pandemic due to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which caused more than 2.5 million deaths to date, new antiviral molecules are urgently needed. The replication of SARS-CoV-2 requires the RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), making RdRp an excellent target for antiviral agents. RdRp is a multi-subunit complex composed of 3 viral proteins named nsp7, nsp8 and nsp12 that ensure the ~30 kb RNA genome's transcription and replication. The main strategies employed so far for the overproduction of RdRp consist of expressing and purifying the three subunits separately before assembling the complex in vitro. However, nsp12 shows limited solubility in bacterial expression systems and is often produced in insect cells. Here, we describe an alternative strategy to co-express the full SARS-CoV-2 RdRp in E. coli, using a single plasmid. Characterization of the purified recombinant SARS-CoV-2 RdRp shows that it forms a complex with the expected (nsp7)(nsp8)2(nsp12) stoichiometry. RNA polymerization activity was measured using primer-extension assays showing that the purified enzyme is functional. The purification protocol can be achieved in one single day, surpassing in speed all other published protocols. Our construct is ideally suited for screening RdRp and its variants against very large chemical compounds libraries and has been made available to the scientific community through the Addgene plasmid depository (Addgene ID: 165451).

Cloning, Molecular , Coronavirus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase/genetics , Escherichia coli/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/genetics , COVID-19/virology , Cloning, Molecular/methods , Coronavirus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase/isolation & purification , Coronavirus RNA-Dependent RNA Polymerase/metabolism , Humans , Recombinant Proteins/genetics , Recombinant Proteins/isolation & purification , Recombinant Proteins/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/isolation & purification , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/metabolism