A package of disaster: The virus envelope surrounds the genetic material of the pathogen, the RNA.
In the genetic material of SARS-CoV-2 there are sections that are almost never changed by mutations. There drugs against the virus could attack, as Frankfurt researchers have shown.
BTogether with international colleagues, chemists at Goethe University have discovered several weak points in the SARS-CoV-2 genome that could be suitable as targets for drugs. Harald Schwalbe’s scientists have shown that several small molecules can dock onto certain sequences of the virus genome that are almost never changed by mutations. This discovery could be used to inhibit the growth of the pathogen in body cells.
The research consortium initially identified 15 short sections on the RNA strand of SARS-CoV-2, which are also found in a similar form in other coronaviruses. These sequences are believed to have important regulatory functions. Virus samples from last year showed that these sites were very rarely affected by mutations.
Tests with molecules from the substance database
Schwalbe and his colleagues had 768 different small molecules from a substance database react with these RNA segments. As studies using nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy showed, 69 of these molecules bound to 13 of the 15 segments, three of them very specifically to only one sequence. According to Schwalbe, this proves that these areas are very suitable as targets for medication. In an infected cell, the virus RNA makes up to two thirds of the total RNA, so that the reproduction of SARS-CoV-2 can be significantly disrupted with suitable active ingredients. The research team has now started to investigate commercially available substances that are chemically similar to the molecules tested.