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Baicalin and baicalein can inhibit key proteases of new coronavirus (COVID-19)


Discovery of baicalin and baicalein as novel, natural product inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 3CL protease in vitro

Haixia SuSheng YaoWenfeng ZhaoMinjun LiJia LiuWeiJuan ShangHang XieChangqiang KeMeina GaoKunqian YuHong LiuJingshan ShenWei TangLeike ZhangJianping ZuoHualiang JiangFang BaiYan WuYang YeYechun Xu

Human infections with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cause coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) and there is currently no cure. The 3C-like protease (3CLpro), a highly conserved protease indispensable for replication of coronaviruses, is a promising target for development of broad-spectrum antiviral drugs. To advance the speed of drug discovery and development, we investigated the inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro by natural products derived from Chinese traditional medicines. Baicalin and baicalein were identified as the first non-covalent, non-peptidomimetic inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro and exhibited potent antiviral activities in a cell-based system. Remarkably, the binding mode of baicalein with SARS-CoV-2 3CLpro determined by X-ray protein crystallography is distinctly different from those of known inhibitors. Baicalein is perfectly ensconced in the core of the substrate-binding pocket by interacting with two catalytic residues, the crucial S1/S2 subsites and the oxyanion loop, acting as a “shield” in front of the catalytic dyad to prevent the peptide substrate approaching the active site. The simple chemical structure, unique mode of action, and potent antiviral activities in vitro, coupled with the favorable safety data from clinical trials, emphasize that baicalein provides a great opportunity for the development of critically needed anti-coronaviral drugs.

Paper in collection COVID-19 SARS-CoV-2 preprints from medRxiv and bioRxiv