Understanding the driving forces that trigger mutations in SARS‐CoV‐2: mutational energetics and the role of arginine blockers in COVID‐19 therapy

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Ridgway, Harry, Chasapis, Christos T ORCID: 0000-0002-8728-6245, Kelaidonis, Konstantinos, Ligielli, Irene, Moore, Graham J, Gadanec, Laura Kate ORCID: 0000-0002-4801-8061, Zulli, Anthony ORCID: 0000-0002-2660-078X, Apostolopoulos, Vasso ORCID: 0000-0001-6788-2771, Mavromoustakos, Thomas ORCID: 0000-0001-5309-992X and Matsoukas, John ORCID: 0000-0001-5554-2964 (2022) Understanding the driving forces that trigger mutations in SARS‐CoV‐2: mutational energetics and the role of arginine blockers in COVID‐19 therapy. Viruses, 14 (5). ISSN 1999-4915


SARS‐CoV‐2 is a global challenge due to its ability to mutate into variants that spread more rapidly than the wild‐type virus. Because the molecular biology of this virus has been studied in such great detail, it represents an archetypal paradigm for research into new antiviral drug therapies. The rapid evolution of SARS‐CoV‐2 in the human population is driven, in part, by mutations in the recep-tor‐binding domain (RBD) of the spike (S‐) protein, some of which enable tighter binding to angioten-sin‐converting enzyme (ACE2). More stable RBD‐ACE2 association is coupled with accelerated hydrolysis of furin and 3CLpro cleavage sites that augment infection. Non‐RBD and non‐interfacial mutations assist the S‐protein in adopting thermodynamically favorable conformations for stronger bind-ing. The driving forces of key mutations for Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Lambda and Omicron variants, which stabilize the RBD‐ACE2 complex, are investigated by free‐energy computational ap-proaches, as well as equilibrium and steered molecular dynamic simulations. Considered also are the structural hydropathy traits of the residues in the interface between SARS‐CoV‐2 RBD and ACE2 pro-tein. Salt bridges and π‐π interactions are critical forces that create stronger complexes between the RBD and ACE2. The trend of mutations is the replacement of non‐polar hydrophobic interactions with polar hydrophilic interactions, which enhance binding of RBD with ACE2. However, this is not always the case, as conformational landscapes also contribute to a stronger binding. Arginine, the most polar and hydrophilic among the natural amino acids, is the most aggressive mutant amino acid for stronger binding. Arginine blockers, such as traditional sartans that bear anionic tetrazoles and carboxylates, may be ideal candidate drugs for retarding viral infection by weakening S‐protein RBD binding to ACE2 and discouraging hydrolysis of cleavage sites. Based on our computational results it is sug-gested that a new generation of “supersartans”, called “bisartans”, bearing two anionic biphenyl‐te-trazole pharmacophores, are superior to carboxylates in terms of their interactions with viral targets, suggesting their potential as drugs in the treatment of COVID‐19. In Brief: This in silico study reviews our understanding of molecular driving forces that trigger mutations in the SARS‐CoV‐2 virus. It also reports further studies on a new class of “supersartans” referred to herein as “bisartans”, bearing two anionic biphenyltetrazole moieties that show potential in models for blocking critical amino acids of mutants, such as arginine, in the Delta variant. Bisartans may also act at other targets essential for viral infection and replication (i.e., ACE2, furin cleavage site and 3CLpro), rendering them potential new drugs for additional experimentation and translation to human clinical trials.

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Item type Article
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/45858
DOI 10.3390/v14051029
Official URL https://www.mdpi.com/1999-4915/14/5/1029
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3208 Medical physiology
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Health and Sport
Keywords SARS-CoV-2, viruses, Covid 19, molecular biology, Covid-19 therapy, human clinical trials
Citations in Scopus 10 - View on Scopus
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