Virtual screening, molecular docking studies and DFT calculations of FDA approved compounds similar to the non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI) efavirenz

Heliyon. 2020 Aug 11;6(8):e04642. doi: 10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e04642. eCollection 2020 Aug.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was confirmed as the causative virus of COVID-19 disease, which is currently a worldwide pandemic. Efavirenz, a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor (NNRTI), is one of the most potent chemical compounds proposed to treat COVID-19 infection. We, therefore, performed virtual screening on FDA approved drugs that are similar to the efavirenz moiety. Subsequently, the compounds were subjected to screening by analyzing their drug-likeness, such as Lipinski's rule of five and ADMET properties. Molecular docking study revealed that Met165, His41, His163, and Phe140 were important interacting residues for COVID-19 main protease receptor-ligand interaction. Five top-ranked compounds, podophyllotoxin, oxacillin, lovastatin, simvastatin, and gefitinib, were selected by virtual screening and docking studies. The highest occupied molecular (HOMO) orbital, lowest unoccupied molecular orbital (LUMO) and energy gap values was calculated using density functional theory (DFT). The results of the study showed that lovastatin and simvastatin might be considered as lead compounds for further development for COVID-19 main protease inhibitors.

Keywords: COVID-19; Efavirenz; HIV; NNRTI; Pharmaceutical chemistry; Theoretical chemistry; Virtual screening.