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A Critical Study on Acylating and Covalent Reversible Fragment Inhibitors of SARS‐CoV‐2 Main Protease Targeting the S1 Site with Pyridine

Von Wiley-VCH zur Verfügung gestellt

In the search for suitable S1 binding fragments of SARS-CoV-2 Mpro, pyridine-electrophile combinations with different linkers (L, X) were tested regarding their activity, kinetics and chemical stability. Halopyridinyl esters showed high activity but lacked in stability, while pyridine aldehyde fragments seem to have the potential for further drug development.


SARS coronavirus main proteases (3CL proteases) have been validated as pharmacological targets for the treatment of coronavirus infections. Current inhibitors of SARS main protease, including the clinically admitted drug nirmatrelvir are peptidomimetics with the downsides of this class of drugs including limited oral bioavailability, cellular permeability, and rapid metabolic degradation. Here, we investigate covalent fragment inhibitors of SARS Mpro as potential alternatives to peptidomimetic inhibitors in use today. Starting from inhibitors acylating the enzyme's active site, a set of reactive fragments was synthesized, and the inhibitory potency was correlated with the chemical stability of the inhibitors and the kinetic stability of the covalent enzyme-inhibitor complex. We found that all tested acylating carboxylates, several of them published prominently, were hydrolyzed in assay buffer and the inhibitory acyl-enzyme complexes were rapidly degraded leading to the irreversible inactivation of these drugs. Acylating carbonates were found to be more stable than acylating carboxylates, however, were inactive in infected cells. Finally, reversibly covalent fragments were investigated as chemically stable SARS CoV-2 inhibitors. Best was a pyridine-aldehyde fragment with an IC50 of 1.8 μM at a molecular weight of 211 g/mol, showing that pyridine fragments indeed are able to block the active site of SARS-CoV-2 main protease.

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