Evaluation of Potential Peptide-Based Inhibitors Against SARS-CoV-2 and Variants of Concern

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Abstract

The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic has greatly affected all aspect of life. Although several vaccines and pharmaceuticals have been developed against SARS-CoV-2, the emergence of mutated variants has raised several concerns. The angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2) receptor cell entry mechanism of this virus has not changed despite the vast mutation in emerging variants. Inhibiting the spike protein by which the virus identifies the host ACE2 receptor is a promising therapeutic countermeasure to keep pace with rapidly emerging variants. Here, we synthesized two ACE2-derived peptides, P1 and P25, to target and potentially inhibit SARS-CoV-2 cell entry. These peptides were evaluated in vitro using pseudoviruses that contained the SARS-CoV-2 original spike protein, the Delta mutated spike protein, or the Omicron spike protein. An in silico investigation was also done for these peptides to evaluate the interaction of the synthesized peptides and the SARS-CoV-2 variants. The P25 peptide showed a promising inhibition potency against the tested pseudoviruses and an even higher inhibition against the Omicron variant. The IC50 of the Omicron variant was 60.8 µM, while the IC50s of the SARS-CoV-2 original strain and the Delta variant were 455.2 µM and 546.4 µM, respectively. The in silico experiments also showed that the amino acid composition design and structure of P25 boosted the interaction with the spike protein. These findings suggest that ACE2- derived peptides, such as P25, have the potential to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 cell entry in vitro. However, further in vivo studies are needed to confirm their therapeutic efficacy against emerging variants.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAccepted by BioMed Research International
StatePublished - Sep 11 2023

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2023-09-15
Acknowledgements: This work was financially supported by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The authors thank King Abdullah University of Science and Technology for financial support. We express our gratitude to the Bioscience and Imaging Core Labs for granting us the privilege of utilizing their facilities. For computer time, our research used the resources of the Supercomputing Laboratory at KAUST. The authors also would like to thank Dr. Fabian Schmidt and Rockefeller University for providing SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus plasmids and ACE2 cell line. Dr. Manola Moretti is greatly acknowledged for insightful discussions.

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