Identification of Key Interactions Between SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease and Inhibitor Drug Candidates

The number of cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection (COVID-19) has reached over 114,000. SARS-CoV-2 caused a pandemic in Wuhan, China, in December 2019 and is rapidly spreading globally. It has been reported that peptide-like anti-HIV-1 drugs are effective against SARS-CoV Main protease (Mpro). Due to the close phylogenetic relationship between SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2, their main proteases share many structural and functional features. Thus, these drugs are also regarded as potential drug candidates targeting SARS-CoV-2 Mpro. However, the mechanism of action of SARS-CoV-2 Mpro at the atomic-level is unknown. In the present study, we revealed key interactions between SARS-CoV-2 Mpro and three drug candidates by performing pharmacophore modeling and 1μs molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. His41, Gly143, and Glu166 formed interactions with the functional groups that were common among peptide-like inhibitors in all MD simulations. These interactions are important targets for potential drugs against SARS-CoV-2 Mpro.