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Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Oct 04, 2023  2 months, 5 days, 12 hours, 37 minutes ago

COVID-19 News: Study Shows That Suramin Is A Potential COVID-19 Antiviral As It Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Phosphoprotein Genome Packaging Function

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COVID-19 News: Study Shows That Suramin Is A Potential COVID-19 Antiviral As It Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Phosphoprotein Genome Packaging Function
Nikhil Prasad  Fact checked by:Thailand Medical News Team Oct 04, 2023  2 months, 5 days, 12 hours, 37 minutes ago
COVID-19 News: The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has been a global health crisis of unprecedented proportions. While vaccines have provided significant relief, according to claims by those controlling the COVID-19 narratives, the ongoing threat of new variants and vaccine resistance necessitates the development of new antiviral treatments. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, the University of Cagliari in Italy, and Eszterházy Károly Catholic University in Hungary have made an exciting discovery regarding Suramin, a century-old drug. Their study reveals that Suramin may hold promise as a potential COVID-19 antiviral by targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N) and inhibiting its genome packaging function. This article explores the key findings of their research and its implications for future COVID-19 treatments.

Model and interaction map for Suramin binding to SARS-CoV-2 N NTD. Cartoon 3D representation of Suramin putative binding mode to SARS-CoV-2 N NTD, according to best pose by molecular docking; predicted 3D-intermolecular interactions at binding site are zoomed in the inset. (B) 2D-diagram of predicted Suramin-residue interactions within the N NTD binding pocket; H-bonds and hydrophobic contacts are shown as dashed lines with distances between atoms indicated in angstrom and as arcs with spokes, respectively.

The Ongoing Challenge of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a persistent global threat, despite the development and widespread distribution of vaccines. Variants of SARS-CoV-2 continue to emerge, some with increased transmissibility and potential resistance to existing vaccines as seen in emerging studies and COVID-19 News reports. This ongoing challenge highlights the need for new antiviral treatments that can complement vaccination efforts. Current treatments are limited in their accessibility, often reserved for hospitalized patients, and target only specific viral proteins.
Given this backdrop, researchers are actively seeking new therapeutic targets within the SARS-CoV-2 proteome. One promising candidate is the nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N), a critical structural component of the virus responsible for packaging the viral genome into a ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex. N is also known to play a role in the virus's evasion of the host cell's type-I interferon (IFN-I) response, which is part of the innate immune system. Understanding how N functions and identifying compounds that can inhibit its activity are essential steps in developing effective COVID-19 antivirals.
The Structure and Function of SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Protein
The SARS-CoV-2 N protein is a versatile molecule involved in various aspects of the virus's life cycle. It interacts with the single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) viral genome, allowing it to form the RNP complex. This complex is essential for compacting and protecting the viral genome during replication and transcription.
Additionally, N has been linked to the suppression of the host cell's IFN-I response, aiding the virus in evading the immune system.
N has two critical functional domains: the N-terminal domain (NTD) and the C-terminal domain (CTD). These domains are interspersed with intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs). The NTD and CTD are both involved in binding to ssRNA, while the CTD is responsible for N's self-association to form dimers. The IDRs play a role in regulating these activities.
Suramin: A Century-Old Drug with Antiviral Potential
Suramin is a drug that was developed over a century ago for the treatment of African sleeping sickness and river blindness caused by trypanosomes and filarial parasites, respectively. In the realm of antivirals, Suramin has demonstrated efficacy against a wide range of viruses, including HIV, herpes simplex virus, hepatitis C virus, Dengue virus, enterovirus 71, norovirus, Chikungunya virus, Zika virus, and Ebola virus.
In the context of SARS-CoV-2 infection, Suramin has shown promise in interfering with various stages of the virus's replication cycle. It has been found to target the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) complex, the main protease (3CL-Mpro), and the viral helicase. Importantly, recent research also indicates that Suramin interacts with the SARS-CoV-2 N protein.
However, Suramin has limitations, including poor bioavailability and potential adverse side effects. Its high negative charge and chemical flexibility can lead to interactions with unintended targets. Despite these challenges, Suramin's chemical properties make it a promising starting point for the development of derivatives with improved efficacy and safety profiles.
Suramin Inhibits SARS-CoV-2 N Protein: Key Findings
The researchers in this study employed a combination of biophysical, biochemical, computational, and biological experiments to investigate Suramin's interaction with SARS-CoV-2 N protein. Their findings can be summarized as follows:
Suramin Binds to Both NTD and CTD: Suramin was found to interact with both the NTD and CTD of SARS-CoV-2 N protein. This interaction inhibited the protein's binding to single-stranded RNA (ssRNA) with low-micromolar affinity. Molecular docking studies suggested that Suramin binds to specific sites on the NTD and CTD, disrupting their ability to interact with ssRNA.
Inhibition of Genome Packaging: Suramin's interaction with NTD and CTD had a significant impact on the formation of ribonucleoprotein (RNP) complex-like structures in vitro. These structures are essential for packaging the viral genome. Suramin effectively prevented the formation of these condensates, interfering with SARS-CoV-2 N's role in genome packaging.
Reduction in Viral Replication: Suramin demonstrated dose-dependent inhibition of SARS-CoV-2-induced cytopathic effects in cell culture, reducing viral replication. Additionally, it partially restored the interferon-I (IFN-I) response, which is typically suppressed by SARS-CoV-2 N, in infected cells.
Implications and Future Directions
The study's findings provide valuable insights into the potential use of Suramin as a COVID-19 antiviral agent. By targeting the SARS-CoV-2 N protein and inhibiting its genome packaging function, Suramin disrupts a critical step in the virus's life cycle. This disruption ultimately leads to a reduction in viral replication, making Suramin a promising candidate for further investigation.
However, it is important to note that Suramin, while showing potential, has limitations such as poor bioavailability and side effects. Therefore, the immediate repurposing of Suramin for COVID-19 treatment should be approached with caution. Instead, the study highlights the need for further research to develop derivatives or analogs of Suramin that are less cytotoxic and more selective for SARS-CoV-2 N protein.
In conclusion, the study conducted by researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry, the University of Cagliari, and Eszterházy Károly Catholic University sheds light on Suramin's ability to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 N protein, a crucial player in the virus's replication and immune evasion strategies. While Suramin may not be a direct solution, it paves the way for the development of novel, targeted antiviral compounds that can contribute to the ongoing fight against COVID-19 and future coronaviral infections. Further research and clinical trials are needed to explore the full potential of Suramin and its derivatives in treating COVID-19.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Virus Research (Science Direct).
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