Thermodynamics of the interaction between the spike protein of severe acute respiratory syndrome- coronavirus-2 and the receptor of human angiotensin converting enzyme 2. Effects of possible ligands

12 October 2020, Version 3
This content is a preprint and has not undergone peer review at the time of posting.


Since the end of 2019, the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has caused more than 180,000 deaths all over the world, still lacking a medical treatment despite the concerns of the whole scientific community. Human Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) was recently recognized as the transmembrane protein serving as SARS-CoV-2 entry point into cells, thus constituting the first biomolecular event leading to COVID-19 disease. Here, by means of a state-of-the-art computational approach, we propose a rational evaluation of the molecular mechanisms behind the formation of the complex and of the effects of possible ligands. Moreover, binding free energy between ACE2 and the active Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is evaluated quantitatively, assessing the molecular mechanisms at the basis of the recognition and the ligand-induced decreased affinity. These results boost the knowledge on the molecular grounds of the SARS-CoV-2 infection and allow to suggest rationales useful for the subsequent rational molecular design to treat severe COVID-19 cases.


ACE2 receptor
molecular dynamics
protein-protein interactions

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information


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