Repurposing of Some Natural Product Isolates as SARS-COV-2 Main Protease Inhibitors via In Vitro Cell Free and Cell-Based Antiviral Assessments and Molecular Modeling Approaches
The emergence of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has prompted scientists to search for an efficient antiviral medicine to overcome the rapid spread and the marked increase in the number of patients worldwide. In this regard natural products could be a potential source of substances active against coronavirus infections. A systematic computer-aided virtual screening approach was carried out using commercially available natural products found on the Zinc Database in addition to an in-house compound library to identify potential natural product inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 main protease (MPRO). The top eighteen hits from the screening were selected for in vitro evaluation on the viral protease (SARS-CoV-2 MPRO). Five compounds (naringenin, 2,3',4,5',6-pentahydroxybenzophenone, apigenin-7-O-glucoside, sennoside B, and acetoside) displayed high activity against the viral protein. Acteoside showed similar activity to the positive control GC376. The most potent compounds were tested in vitro on SARS-CoV-2 Egyptian strain where only naringenin showed moderate anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity at non-cytotoxic micromolar concentrations in vitro with a significant selectivity index (CC50/IC50 = 178.748/28.347 = 6.3). Moreover; a common feature pharmacophore model was generated to explain the requirements for enzyme inhibition by this diverse group of active ligands. These results pave a path for future repurposing and development of natural products to aid in the battle against COVID-19.