Novel Polymyxin-Inspired Peptidomimetics Targeting the SARS-CoV-2 Spike:hACE2 Interface

Though the bulk of the COVID-19 pandemic is behind, the search for effective and safea anti-SARS-CoV-2 drugs continues to be relevant. A highly pursued approach for antiviral drug development involves targeting the viral spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 to prevent its attachment to the cellular receptor ACE2. Here, we exploited the core structure of polymyxin B, a naturally occurring antibiotic, to design and synthesize unprecedented peptidomimetics (PMs), intended to target contemporarily two defined, non-overlapping regions of the S receptor-binding domain (RBD).
Monomers 1, 2, and 8, and heterodimers 7 and 10 bound to the S-RBD with micromolar affinity in cellfree surface plasmon resonance assays (KD ranging from 2.31 µM to 2.78 µM for dimers and 8.56 µM to 10.12 µM for monomers). Although the PMs were not able to fully protect cell cultures from infection with authentic live SARS-CoV-2, dimer 10 exerted a minimal but detectable inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 entry in U87.ACE2+ and A549.ACE2.TMPRSS2+ cells. These results validated a previous modeling study and provided the first proof-of-feasibility of using medium-sized heterodimeric PMs for targeting the S-RBD. Thus, heterodimers 7 and 10 may serve as a lead for the development of optimized compounds, which are structurally related to polymyxin, with improved S-RBD affinity and anti-SARS-CoV-2 potential.

DOI: 10.3390/ijms24108765 

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