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An Enzymatic TMPRSS2 Assay for Assessment of Clinical Candidates and Discovery of Inhibitors as Potential Treatment of COVID-19

By Jonathan H. Shrimp, Stephen C. Kales, Philip E. Sanderson, Anton Simeonov, Min Shen, Matthew Hall

Posted 23 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.23.167544 (published DOI: 10.1021/acsptsci.0c00106)

SARS-CoV-2 is the viral pathogen causing the COVID19 global pandemic. Consequently, much research has gone into the development of pre-clinical assays for the discovery of new or repurposing of FDA-approved therapies. Preventing viral entry into a host cell would be an effective antiviral strategy. One mechanism for SARS-CoV-2 entry occurs when the spike protein on the surface of SARS-CoV-2 binds to an ACE2 receptor followed by cleavage at two cut sites (“priming”) that causes a conformational change allowing for viral and host membrane fusion. TMPRSS2 has an extracellular protease domain capable of cleaving the spike protein to initiate membrane fusion. A validated inhibitor of TMPRSS2 protease activity would be a valuable tool for studying the impact TMPRSS2 has in viral entry and potentially be an effective antiviral therapeutic. To enable inhibitor discovery and profiling of FDA-approved therapeutics, we describe an assay for the biochemical screening of recombinant TMPRSS2 suitable for high throughput application. We demonstrate effectiveness to quantify inhibition down to subnanomolar concentrations by assessing the inhibition of camostat, nafamostat and gabexate, clinically approved agents in Japan. Also, we profiled a camostat metabolite, FOY-251, and bromhexine hydrochloride, an FDA-approved mucolytic cough suppressant. The rank order potency for the compounds tested are: nafamostat (IC50 = 0.27 nM), camostat (IC50 = 6.2 nM), FOY-251 (IC50 = 33.3 nM) and gabexate (IC50 = 130 nM). Bromhexine hydrochloride showed no inhibition of TMPRSS2. Further profiling of camostat, nafamostat and gabexate against a panel of recombinant proteases provides insight into selectivity and potency. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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