Synthesis of adenine dinucleosides SAM analogs as specific inhibitors of SARS-CoV nsp14 RNA cap guanine-N7-methyltransferase

Eur J Med Chem. 2020 Sep 1;201:112557. doi: 10.1016/j.ejmech.2020.112557. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


The spreading of new viruses is known to provoke global human health threat. The current COVID-19 pandemic caused by the recently emerged coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is one significant and unfortunate example of what the world will have to face in the future with emerging viruses in absence of appropriate treatment. The discovery of potent and specific antiviral inhibitors and/or vaccines to fight these massive outbreaks is an urgent research priority. Enzymes involved in the capping pathway of viruses and more specifically RNA N7- or 2'O-methyltransferases (MTases) are now admitted as potential targets for antiviral chemotherapy. We designed bisubstrate inhibitors by mimicking the transition state of the 2'-O-methylation of the cap RNA in order to block viral 2'-O MTases. This work resulted in the synthesis of 16 adenine dinucleosides with both adenosines connected by various nitrogen-containing linkers. Unexpectedly, all the bisubstrate compounds were barely active against 2'-O MTases of several flaviviruses or SARS-CoV but surprisingly, seven of them showed efficient and specific inhibition against SARS-CoV N7-MTase (nsp14) in the micromolar to submicromolar range. The most active nsp14 inhibitor identified is as potent as but particularly more specific than the broad-spectrum MTase inhibitor, sinefungin. Molecular docking suggests that the inhibitor binds to a pocket formed by the S-adenosyl methionine (SAM) and cap RNA binding sites, conserved among SARS-CoV nsp14. These dinucleoside SAM analogs will serve as starting points for the development of next inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2 nsp14 N7-MTase.

Keywords: Bisubstrate; Coronavirus; Inhibitor; Nucleoside; RNA methyltransferase; SAM analogs.

MeSH terms

  • Adenine / chemistry
  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Exoribonucleases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Exoribonucleases / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Nucleosides / chemistry*
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / metabolism
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • RNA Caps / chemistry
  • RNA Caps / genetics
  • RNA Caps / metabolism*
  • RNA, Viral / genetics
  • RNA, Viral / metabolism
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / analogs & derivatives*
  • S-Adenosylmethionine / pharmacology*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins / metabolism


  • Nucleosides
  • RNA Caps
  • RNA, Viral
  • Viral Nonstructural Proteins
  • S-Adenosylmethionine
  • Methyltransferases
  • mRNA (guanine(N7))-methyltransferase
  • Exoribonucleases
  • NSP14 protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • Adenine