Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), being highly virulent and contagious in piglets, has caused significant damage to the pork industries of many countries worldwide. There are no commercial drugs targeting coronaviruses (CoVs), and few studies on anti-PEDV inhibitors. The coronavirus 3C-like protease (3CLpro) has a conserved structure and catalytic mechanism and plays a key role during viral polyprotein processing, thus serving as an appealing antiviral drug target. Here, we report the anti-PEDV effect of the broad-spectrum inhibitor GC376 (targeting 3Cpro or 3CLpro of viruses in the picornavirus-like supercluster). GC376 was highly effective against the PEDV 3CLpro and exerted similar inhibitory effects on two PEDV strains. Furthermore, the structure of the PEDV 3CLpro in complex with GC376 was determined at 1.65 Å. We elucidated structural details and analyzed the differences between GC376 binding with the PEDV 3CLpro and GC376 binding with the transmissible gastroenteritis virus (TGEV) 3CLpro. Finally, we explored the substrate specificity of PEDV 3CLpro at the P2 site and analyzed the effects of Leu group modification in GC376 on inhibiting PEDV infection. This study helps us to understand better the PEDV 3CLpro substrate specificity, providing information on the optimization of GC376 for development as an antiviral therapeutic against coronaviruses.
Keywords: PEDV 3CLpro; complex; coronavirus; crystal structure; inhibitor.