Human ACE2 orthologous peptide sequences show better binding affinity to SARS-CoV-2 RBD domain: Implications for drug design

Mahmoudi Azar L., Öncel M. M., KARAMAN E., Soysal L. F., FATIMA A., Choi S. B., ...More

Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal, vol.21, pp.4096-4109, 2023 (SCI-Expanded) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 21
  • Publication Date: 2023
  • Doi Number: 10.1016/j.csbj.2023.07.022
  • Journal Name: Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
  • Journal Indexes: Science Citation Index Expanded (SCI-EXPANDED), Scopus, CAB Abstracts, Compendex, EMBASE, INSPEC, Veterinary Science Database, Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Page Numbers: pp.4096-4109
  • Keywords: ACE2, And SARS-CoV-2, Binding affinity, Biosimilar, COVID, Docking, Drug, Inhibitory peptides, Molecular dynamics, Surface plasmon resonance (SPR), Virus
  • Bezmialem Vakıf University Affiliated: Yes


Computational methods coupled with experimental validation play a critical role in the identification of novel inhibitory peptides that interact with viral antigenic determinants. The interaction between the receptor binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and the helical peptide of human angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) is a necessity for the initiation of viral infection. Herein, natural orthologs of human ACE2 helical peptide were evaluated for competitive inhibitory binding to the viral RBD by use of a computational approach, which was experimentally validated. A total of 624 natural ACE2 orthologous 32-amino acid long peptides were identified through a similarity search. Molecular docking was used to virtually screen and rank the peptides based on binding affinity metrics, benchmarked against human ACE2 peptide docked to the RBD. Molecular dynamics (MD) simulations were done for the human reference and the Nipponia nippon peptide as it exhibited the highest binding affinity (Gibbs free energy; −14 kcal/mol) predicted from the docking results. The MD simulation confirmed the stability of the assessed peptide in the complex (−12.3 kcal/mol). The top three docked-peptides (from Chitinophaga sancti, Nipponia nippon, and Mus musculus) and the human reference were experimentally validated by use of surface plasmon resonance technology. The human reference exhibited the weakest binding affinity (Kd of 318–441 pM) among the peptides tested, in agreement with the docking prediction, while the peptide from Nipponia nippon was the best, with 267–538-fold higher affinity than the reference. The validated peptides merit further investigation. This work showcases that the approach herein can aid in the identification of inhibitory biosimilar peptides for other viruses.