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Explained: In green tea and dark chocolate, compounds that block the coronavirus enzyme

The enzyme whose function is blocked is the ‘main protease’ (Mpro) in SARS-CoV-2. The virus requires this enzyme in order to replicate. If MPro is blocked or deactivated, the virus cannot survive.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 10, 2020 12:14:35 pm
The chemical compounds in green tea and muscadine grapes were found to be very successful at inhibiting Mpro’s function, the researchers said.

Certain foods and beverages such as green tea, dark chocolate and muscadine grapes — a grapevine species native to parts of the United States — contain chemical compounds that can block the function of a key enzyme in the novel coronavirus, a new study has found. The study, by plant biologists at North Carolina State University, is published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.

The enzyme whose function is blocked is the ‘main protease’ (Mpro) in SARS-CoV-2. The virus requires this enzyme in order to replicate. If MPro is blocked or deactivated, the virus cannot survive.

In the study, the researchers performed both computer simulations and lab studies showing how Mpro reacted when confronted with a number of different plant chemical compounds. Taken from green tea, two varieties of muscadine grapes, cacao powder and dark chocolate, these chemical compounds were already known for their potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. When tested against Mpro, the chemicals were able to bind to different portions of the enzyme. Once this binding took place, the protease lost its important function. 📣 Follow Express Explained on Telegram

The chemical compounds in green tea and muscadine grapes were found to be very successful at inhibiting Mpro’s function, the researchers said. In green tea, there were five tested chemical compounds binding to different sites in the pocket on Mpro, and essentially overwhelming it to inhibit its function. Muscadine grapes contain these inhibitory chemicals in their skins and seeds. Chemical compounds in cacao powder and dark chocolate reduced Mpro activity by about half, the researchers reported.

Plants use these compounds to protect themselves.

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