• Optimizing peptide inhibitors of SARS-Cov-2 nsp10/nsp16 methyltransferase predicted through molecular simulation and machine learning.

      Hamre, John R; Jafri, M Saleet (Elsevier, 2022-02-28)
      Coronaviruses, including the recent pandemic strain SARS-Cov-2, use a multifunctional 2'-O-methyltransferase (2'-O-MTase) to restrict the host defense mechanism and to methylate RNA. The nonstructural protein 16 2'-O-MTase (nsp16) becomes active when nonstructural protein 10 (nsp10) and nsp16 interact. Novel peptide drugs have shown promise in the treatment of numerous diseases and new research has established that nsp10 derived peptides can disrupt viral methyltransferase activity via interaction of nsp16. This study had the goal of optimizing new analogous nsp10 peptides that have the ability to bind nsp16 with equal to or higher affinity than those naturally occurring. The following research demonstrates that in silico molecular simulations can shed light on peptide structures and predict the potential of new peptides to interrupt methyltransferase activity via the nsp10/nsp16 interface. The simulations suggest that misalignments at residues F68, H80, I81, D94, and Y96 or rotation at H80 abrogate MTase function. We develop a new set of peptides based on conserved regions of the nsp10 protein in the Coronaviridae species and test these to known MTase variant values. This results in the prediction that the H80R variant is a solid new candidate for potential new testing. We envision that this new lead is the beginning of a reputable foundation of a new computational method that combats coronaviruses and that is beneficial for new peptide drug development.