Remdesivir is a direct-acting antiviral that inhibits RNA-dependent RNA polymerase from severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 with high potency18 Apr, 2020
Effective treatments for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are urgently needed to control this current pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Replication of SARS-CoV-2 depends on the viral RNA-dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp), which is the likely target of the investigational nucleotide analogue remdesivir (RDV). RDV shows broad-spectrum antiviral activity against RNA viruses, and previous studies with RdRps from Ebola virus (EBOV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have revealed that delayed chain-termination is RDV’s plausible mechanism of action.
In this study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, scientist expressed and purified active SARS-CoV-2 RdRp composed of the non-structural proteins nsp8 and nsp12. Enzyme kinetics indicated that this RdRp efficiently incorporates the active triphosphate form of RDV (RDV-TP) into RNA. Incorporation of RDV-TP at position i caused termination of RNA synthesis at position i+3. They obtained almost identical results with SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 RdRps. A unique property of RDV-TP is its high selectivity over incorporation of its natural nucleotide counterpart ATP. In this regard, the triphosphate forms of 2’-C–methylated compounds, including sofosbuvir, approved for the management of hepatitis C virus infection, and the broad-acting antivirals favipiravir and ribavirin, exhibited significant deficits. Furthermore, they provide evidence for the target specificity of RDV, as RDV-TP was less efficiently incorporated by the distantly related Lassa virus RdRp, and termination of RNA synthesis was not observed. These results collectively provide a unifying, refined mechanism of RDV-mediated RNA synthesis inhibition in coronaviruses and define this nucleotide analogue as a direct-acting antiviral (DAA).
On your right, you can visualize a model of SARS-CoV-2 with remdesivir-TP. The remdesivir 1’CN sits in a pocket formed by residues T687 and A688. Residues D623 and S682 (not shown) adopt the same conformations as with ATP.