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New research: Coronavirus ‘molecular scissor’ as a target of Covid-19 drugs

In a new study published in Science Advances, American and Polish scientists suggest that drugs for fighting Covid-19 be designed to block this protein — SARS-CoV-2’s molecular “scissor”.

By: Express News Service | New Delhi | Updated: October 20, 2020 7:39:13 am
Multichannel pipette dropper during research for a Covid-19 vaccine in Austria. Photographer: Akos Stiller/Bloomberg

In the novel coronavirus, an enzyme called SARS-CoV-2-PLpro facilitates infection by processing both viral and human proteins. It stimulates the release of proteins that the virus to needs to replicate. In the human body, it inhibits molecules that signal the immune system to attack the infection.

In a new study published in Science Advances, American and Polish scientists suggest that drugs for fighting Covid-19 be designed to block this protein — SARS-CoV-2’s molecular “scissor”.

US scientists solved the three-dimensional structures of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro. Using this knowledge, Polish chemists developed two molecules that inhibit the enzyme.

These molecules, called VIR250 and VIR251, are very efficient at blocking the activity of SARS-CoV-2-PLpro, yet do not cross-react with human enzymes with a similar function, researcher Shaun Olsen, of the University of Texas at San Antonio, said in a statement.

The US team also compared SARS-CoV-2-PLpro against similar enzymes from coronaviruses of recent decades, SARS-CoV-1 and MERS.

By understanding similarities and differences of these enzymes in various coronaviruses, it may be possible to develop inhibitors that are effective against multiple viruses, the researchers said.

Source: University of Texas at San Antonio

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