Hydrogen bonding penalty used for virtual screening to discover potent inhibitors for Papain-Like cysteine proteases of SARS-CoV-2

Publication Name

Chemical Biology and Drug Design


The Papain-Like proteases (PLpro) of SARS-CoV-2 play a crucial role in viral replication and the formation of nonstructural proteins. To find available inhibitors, the 3D structure of PLpro of SARS2 was obtained by homologous modelling, and we used this structure as a target to search for inhibitors through molecular docking and MM/GBSA binding free energy rescoring. A novel hydrogen bonding penalty was applied to the screening process, which meanwhile took desolvation into account. Finally, 61 compounds were acquired and 4 of them with IC50 at micromolar level tested in vitro enzyme activity assay, which includes clinical drugs tegaserod. Considering the importance of crystal water molecules, the 4 compounds were re-docked and considered bound waters in the active site as a part of PLpro. The binding modes of these 4 compounds were further explored with metadynamics simulations. The hits will provide a starting point for future key interactions identified and lead optimization targetting PLpro.

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Funding Sponsor

National Natural Science Foundation of China



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