A proteomics-MM/PBSA dual approach for the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 main protease substrate peptide specificity

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The main protease Mpro of SARS-CoV-2 is a well-studied major drug target. Additionally, it has been linked to this virus’ pathogenicity, possibly through off-target effects. It is also an interesting diagnostic target. To obtain more data on possible substrates as well as to assess the enzyme’s primary specificity a two-step approach was introduced. First, Terminal Amine Isobaric Labeling of Substrates (TAILS) was employed to identify novel Mpro cleavage sites in a mouse lung proteome library. In a second step, using a structural homology model, the MM/PBSA variant MM/GBSA (Molecular Mechanics Poisson-Boltzmann/Generalized Born Surface Area) free binding energy calculations were carried out to determine relevant interacting amino acids. As a result, 58 unique cleavage sites were detected, including six that displayed glutamine at the P1 position. Furthermore, modeling results indicated that Mpro has a far higher potential promiscuity towards substrates than expected. The combination of proteomics and MM/PBSA modeling analysis can thus be useful for elucidating the specificity of Mpro, and thus open novel perspectives for the development of future peptidomimetic drugs against COVID-19, as well as diagnostic tools.
Gallo G, Barcick U, Coelho C, Salardani M, Camacho MF., Cajado-Carvalho D, et al. A proteomics-MM/PBSA dual approach for the analysis of SARS-CoV-2 main protease substrate peptide specificity. Peptides. 2022 Aug; 154:170814:170814. doi:10.1016/j.peptides.2022.170814.
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