High-throughput screening identifies inhibitors of the SARS coronavirus main proteinase

Jan E Blanchard, Nadine H Elowe, Carly Huitema, Pascal D Fortin, Jonathan D Cechetto, Lindsay D Eltis, Eric D Brown
Chemistry & Biology 2004, 11 (10): 1445-53
The causative agent of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) has been identified as a novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV. The main proteinase of SARS-CoV, 3CLpro, is an attractive target for therapeutics against SARS owing to its fundamental role in viral replication. We sought to identify novel inhibitors of 3CLpro to advance the development of appropriate therapies in the treatment of SARS. 3CLpro was cloned, expressed, and purified from the Tor2 isolate. A quenched fluorescence resonance energy transfer assay was developed for 3CLpro to screen the proteinase against 50,000 drug-like small molecules on a fully automated system. The primary screen identified 572 hits; through a series of virtual and experimental filters, this number was reduced to five novel small molecules that show potent inhibitory activity (IC50 = 0.5-7 microM) toward SARS-CoV 3CLpro.

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