Biochemistry, Department of


Date of this Version



Dr. Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Journal

31 May 2022


© The Author(s) 2022


SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic, and its effects on people worldwide continue to grow. Protein-targeted therapeutics are currently unavailable for this virus. As with other coronaviruses, the nucleocapsid (N) protein is the most conserved RNA-binding structural protein of SARS-CoV-2. The N protein is an appealing target because of its functional role in viral transcription and replication. Therefore, molecular docking method for structure-based drug design was used to investigate the binding energy and binding modes of various anti-N inhibitors in depth. The inhibitors selected were originally developed to target stress granules and other molecules involved in RNA biology, and were either FDA-approved or in the process of clinical trials for COVID-19. We aimed at targeting the N-terminal RNA binding domain (NTD) for molecular docking-based screening, on the basis of the first resolved crystal structure of SARS-CoV-2 N protein (PDB ID: 6M3M) and C-terminal domain (CTD) dimerization of the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein of SARS-COV-2 (PDB ID: 6WJI). Silmitasertib, nintedanib, ternatin, luteolin, and fedratinib were found to interact with RNA binding sites and to form a predicted protein interface with high binding energy. Similarly, silmitasertib, sirolimus-rapamycin, dovitinib, nintedanib, and fedratinib were found to interact with the SARS-CoV-2 N protein at its CTD dimerization sites, according to previous studies. In addition, we investigated an information gap regarding the relationships among the energetic landscape and stability and drug binding of the SARS-CoV-2 N NTD and CTD. Our in silico results clearly indicated that several tested drugs as potent putative inhibitors for COVID-19 therapeutics, thus indicating that they should be further validated as treatments to slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2.