Mar 31, 2020

Computational Design of Peptides to Block Binding of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein to Human ACE2

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Shohei TakunoJeffrey Ross-Ibarra

Abstract

The outbreak of COVID-19 has now become a global pandemic and it continues to spread rapidly worldwide, severely threatening lives and economic stability. Making the problem worse, there is no specific antiviral drug that can be used to treat COVID-19 to date. SARS-CoV-2 initiates its entry into human cells by binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) via the receptor binding domain (RBD) of its spike protein. Therefore, molecules that can block SARS-CoV-2 from binding to hACE2 may potentially prevent the virus from entering human cells and serve as an effective antiviral drug. Based on this idea, we designed a series of peptides that can strongly bind to SARS-CoV-2 RBD in computational experiments. Specifically, we first constructed a 31-mer peptidic scaffold by linking two fragments grafted from hACE2 (a.a. 22-44 and 351-357) with a linker glycine, and then redesigned the peptide sequence to enhance its binding affinity to SARS-CoV-2 RBD. Compare with several computational studies that failed to identify that SARS-CoV-2 shows higher binding affinity for hACE2 than SARS-CoV, our protein design scoring function, EvoEF2, makes a correct identification, which is consistent with the recently reported experimental data, im...Continue Reading

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