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Crystal structure of SARS-CoV-2 main protease in complex with a Chinese herb inhibitor shikonin

By Jian Li, Xuelan Zhou, Yan Zhang, Fanglin Zhong, Cheng Lin, Peter J. McCormick, Feng Jiang, Huan Zhou, Qisheng Wang, Jingjing Duan, Jin Zhang

Posted 17 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.16.155812

Main protease (Mpro, also known as 3CLpro) has a major role in the replication of coronavirus life cycle and is one of the most important drug targets for anticoronavirus agents. Here we report the crystal structure of main protease of SARS-CoV-2 bound to a previously identified Chinese herb inhibitor shikonin at 2.45 angstrom resolution. Although the structure revealed here shares similar overall structure with other published structures, there are several key differences which highlight potential features that could be exploited. The catalytic dyad His41-Cys145 undergoes dramatic conformational changes, and the structure reveals an unusual arrangement of oxyanion loop stabilized by the substrate. Binding to shikonin and binding of covalent inhibitors show different binding modes, suggesting a diversity in inhibitor binding. As we learn more about different binding modes and their structure-function relationships, it is probable that we can design more effective and specific drugs with high potency that can serve as effect SARS-CoV-2 anti-viral agents. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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