Identification of potential inhibitors of SARS-COV-2 endoribonuclease (EndoU) from FDA approved drugs: a drug repurposing approach to find therapeutics for COVID-19

J Biomol Struct Dyn. 2021 Aug;39(12):4201-4211. doi: 10.1080/07391102.2020.1775127. Epub 2020 Jun 9.


SARS-CoV-2 is causative agent of COVID-19, which is responsible for severe social and economic disruption globally. Lack of vaccine or antiviral drug with clinical efficacy suggested that drug repurposing approach may provide a quick therapeutic solution to COVID-19. Nonstructural protein-15 (NSP15) encodes for an uridylate-specific endoribonuclease (EndoU) enzyme, essential for virus life cycle and an attractive target for drug development. We have performed in silico based virtual screening of FDA approved compounds targeting EndoU in search of COVID-19 drugs from commercially available approved molecules. Two drugs Glisoxepide and Idarubicin used for treatment for diabetes and leukemia, respectively, were selected as stronger binder of EndoU. Both the drugs bound to the active site of the viral endonuclease by forming attractive intermolecular interactions with catalytically essential amino acid residues, His235, His250, and Lys290. Molecular dynamics simulation studies showed stable conformation dynamics upon drugs binding to endoU. The binding free energies for Glisoxepide and Idarubicin were calculated to be -141 ± 11 and -136 ± 16 kJ/mol, respectively. The IC50 were predicted to be 9.2 µM and 30 µM for Glisoxepide and Idarubicin, respectively. Comparative structural analysis showed the stronger binding of EndoU to Glisoxepide and Idarubicin than to uridine monophosphate (UMP). Surface area calculations showed buried are of 361.8Å2 by Glisoxepide which is almost double of the area occupied by UMP suggesting stronger binding of the drug than the ribonucleotide. However, further studies on these drugs for evaluation of their clinical efficacy and dose formulations may be required, which may provide a quick therapeutic option to treat COVID-19. Communicated by Ramaswamy H. Sarma.

Keywords: IC50; SARS-CoV-2; binding affinity; drug repurposing; endonuclease; molecular dynamic simulation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents
  • COVID-19*
  • Drug Repositioning
  • Endoribonucleases
  • Humans
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations*
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antiviral Agents
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • Endoribonucleases

Grants and funding

We are thankful to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Govt. of India [BIC/12(31)/2012] and Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), Human Resource Development Group (HRDG), India [37(1668)-16-EMR-II].