Biological and Medicinal Chemistry

Ritonavir May Inhibit Exoribonuclease Activity of Nsp14 from the SARS-CoV-2 Virus and Potentiate the Activity of Chain Terminating Drugs



SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent for the ongoing COVID19 pandemic, and this virus belongs to the Coronaviridae family. The nsp14 protein of SARS-CoV-2 houses a 3’ to 5’ exoribonuclease activity responsible for removing mismatches that arise during genome duplication. A homology model of nsp10-nsp14 complex was used to carry out in silico screening to identify molecules among natural products, or FDA approved drugs that can potentially inhibit the activity of nsp14. This exercise showed that ritonavir might bind to the exoribonuclease active site of the nsp14 protein. A model of the SCV2-nsp10-nsp14 complex
bound to substrate RNA showed that the ritonavir binding site overlaps with that of the 3’ nucleotide of substrate RNA. A comparison of the calculated energies of binding for RNA and ritonavir suggested that the drug may bind to the active site of nsp14 with significant affinity. It is, therefore, possible that ritonavir may prevent association with substrate RNA and thus inhibit the exoribonuclease activity of nsp14. Overall, our computational studies suggest that ritonavir
may serve as an effective inhibitor of the nsp14 protein. nsp14 is known to attenuate the inhibitory effect of drugs that function through premature termination of viral genome
replication. Hence, ritonavir may potentiate the therapeutic properties of drugs such as remdesivir, favipiravir and ribavirin.


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