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Coronaviruses (CoVs) have been responsible for three major outbreaks since the beginning of the 21st century, and the emergence of the recent COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in considerable efforts to design new therapies against coronaviruses. Thus, it is crucial to understand the structural features of their major proteins related to the virus-host interaction. Several studies have shown that from the seven known CoV human pathogens, three of them use the human Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (hACE-2) to mediate their host's cell entry: SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and HCoV-NL63. Therefore, we employed quantum biochemistry techniques within the density function theory (DFT) framework and the molecular fragmentation with conjugate caps (MFCC) approach to analyze the interactions between the hACE-2 and the spike protein-RBD of the three CoVs in order to map the hot-spot residues that form the recognition surface for these complexes and define the similarities and differences in the interaction scenario. The total interaction energy evaluated showed a good agreement with the experimental binding affinity order: SARS-2 > SARS > NL63. A detailed investigation revealed the energetically most relevant regions of hACE-2 and the spike protein for each complex, as well as the key residue-residue interactions. Our results provide valuable information to deeply understand the structural behavior and binding site characteristics that could help to develop antiviral therapeutics that inhibit protein-protein interactions between CoVs S protein and hACE-2.


José X Lima Neto, Davi S Vieira, Jones de Andrade, Umberto Laino Fulco. Exploring the Spike-hACE 2 Residue-Residue Interaction in Human Coronaviruses SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and HCoV-NL63. Journal of chemical information and modeling. 2022 Jun 13;62(11):2857-2868

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PMID: 35617018

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