De novo design of ACE2 protein decoys to neutralize SARS-CoV-2

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Thomas W LinskyDaniel-Adriano Silva


There is an urgent need for the ability to rapidly develop effective countermeasures for emerging biological threats, such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that causes the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. We have developed a generalized computational design strategy to rapidly engineer de novo proteins that precisely recapitulate the protein surface targeted by biological agents, like viruses, to gain entry into cells. The designed proteins act as decoys that block cellular entry and aim to be resilient to viral mutational escape. Using our novel platform, in less than ten weeks, we engineered, validated, and optimized de novo protein decoys of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2), the membrane-associated protein that SARS-CoV-2 exploits to infect cells. Our optimized designs are hyperstable de novo proteins (∼18-37 kDa), have high affinity for the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) and can potently inhibit the virus infection and replication in vitro. Future refinements to our strategy can enable the rapid development of other therapeutic de novo protein decoys, not limited to neutralizing viruses, but to combat any agent that explicitly interacts with cell...Continue Reading

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