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Unmasking the Conformational Stability and Inhibitor Binding to SARS-CoV-2 Main Protease Active Site Mutants and Miniprecurso...

Publication Type
Journal Name
Journal of Molecular Biology
Publication Date
Page Numbers
167876 to 167876

We recently demonstrated that inhibitor binding reorganizes the oxyanion loop of a monomeric catalytic domain of SARS CoV-2 main protease (MPro) from an unwound (E) to a wound (active, E*) conformation, independent of dimerization. Here we assess the effect of the flanking N-terminal residues, to imitate the MPro precursor prior to its autoprocessing, on conformational equilibria rendering stability and inhibitor binding. Thermal denaturation (Tm) of C145A mutant, unlike H41A, increases by 6.8 °C, relative to wild-type mature dimer. An inactivating H41A mutation to maintain a miniprecursor containing TSAVL[Q or E] of the flanking nsp4 sequence in an intact form [(-6)MProH41A and (-6*)MProH41A, respectively], and its corresponding mature MProH41A were systematically examined. While the H41A mutation exerts negligible effect on Tm and dimer dissociation constant (Kdimer) of MProH41A, relative to the wild type MPro, both miniprecursors show a 4–5 °C decrease in Tm and > 85-fold increase in Kdimer as compared to MProH41A. The Kd for the binding of the covalent inhibitor GC373 to (-6*)MProH41A increases ∼12-fold, relative to MProH41A, concomitant with its dimerization. While the inhibitor-free dimer exhibits a state in transit from E to E* with a conformational asymmetry of the protomers’ oxyanion loops and helical domains, inhibitor binding restores the asymmetry to mature-like oxyanion loop conformations (E*) but not of the helical domains. Disorder of the terminal residues 1–2 and 302–306 observed in both structures suggest that N-terminal autoprocessing is tightly coupled to the E-E* equilibrium and stable dimer formation.