American Chemical Society
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Exploration of SARS-CoV‑2 3CLpro Inhibitors by Virtual Screening Methods, FRET Detection, and CPE Assay

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journal contribution
posted on 2021-11-19, 20:06 authored by Jun Zhao, Qinhai Ma, Baoyue Zhang, Pengfei Guo, Zhe Wang, Yi Liu, Minsi Meng, Ailin Liu, Zifeng Yang, Guanhua Du
COVID-19 caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has been spreading all over the world since the end of 2019, and no specific drug has been developed yet. 3C-like protease (3CLpro) acts as an important part of the replication of novel coronavirus and is a promising target for the development of anticoronavirus drugs. In this paper, eight machine learning models were constructed using naïve Bayesian (NB) and recursive partitioning (RP) algorithms for 3CLpro on the basis of optimized two-dimensional (2D) molecular descriptors (MDs) combined with ECFP_4, ECFP_6, and MACCS molecular fingerprints. The optimal models were selected according to the results of 5-fold cross verification, test set verification, and external test set verification. A total of 5766 natural compounds from the internal natural product database were predicted, among which 369 chemical components were predicted to be active compounds by the optimal models and the EstPGood values were more than 0.6, as predicted by the NB (MD + ECFP_6) model. Through ADMET analysis, 31 compounds were selected for further biological activity determination by the fluorescence resonance energy transfer (FRET) method and cytopathic effect (CPE) detection. The results indicated that (+)-shikonin, shikonin, scutellarein, and 5,3′,4′-trihydroxyflavone showed certain activity in inhibiting SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro with the half-maximal inhibitory concentration (IC50) values ranging from 4.38 to 87.76 μM. In the CPE assay, 5,3′,4′-trihydroxyflavone showed a certain antiviral effect with an IC50 value of 8.22 μM. The binding mechanism of 5,3′,4′-trihydroxyflavone with SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro was further revealed through CDOCKER analysis. In this study, 3CLpro prediction models were constructed based on machine learning algorithms for the prediction of active compounds, and the activity of potential inhibitors was determined by the FRET method and CPE assay, which provide important information for further discovery and development of antinovel coronavirus drugs.