Published on July 1, 2021 in SLAS Discov volume 26, 6.
PubMed ID: 33874769
Frequent outbreaks of novel coronaviruses (CoVs), highlighted by the current severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pandemic, necessitate the development of therapeutics that could be easily and effectively administered worldwide. The conserved mRNA-capping process enables CoVs to evade their host immune system and is a target for antiviral development. Nonstructural protein (nsp) 16 in complex with nsp10 catalyzes the final step of coronaviral mRNA capping through its 2'--methylation activity. Like other methyltransferases, the SARS-CoV-2 nsp10-nsp16 complex is druggable. However, the availability of an optimized assay for high-throughput screening (HTS) is an unmet need. Here, we report the development of a radioactivity-based assay for the methyltransferase activity of the nsp10-nsp16 complex in a 384-well format, kinetic characterization, and optimization of the assay for HTS (Z' factor = 0.83). Considering the high conservation of nsp16 across known CoV species, the potential inhibitors targeting the SARS-CoV-2 nsp10-nsp16 complex may also be effective against other emerging pathogenic CoVs.