Computational Study of Potential Galectin-3 Inhibitors in the Treatment of COVID-19

Biomedicines. 2021 Sep 13;9(9):1208. doi: 10.3390/biomedicines9091208.


Galectin-3 is a carbohydrate-binding protein and the most studied member of the galectin family. It regulates several functions throughout the body, among which are inflammation and post-injury remodelling. Recent studies have highlighted the similarity between Galectin-3's carbohydrate recognition domain and the so-called "galectin fold" present on the N-terminal domain of the S1 sub-unit of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Sialic acids binding to the N-terminal domain of the Spike protein are known to be crucial for viral entry into humans, and the role of Galectin-3 as a mediator of lung fibrosis has long been the object of study since its levels have been found to be abnormally high in alveolar macrophages following lung injury. In this context, the discovery of a double inhibitor may both prevent viral entry and reduce post-infection pulmonary fibrosis. In this study, we use a database of 56 compounds, among which 37 have known experimental affinity with Galectin-3. We carry out virtual screening of this database with respect to Galectin-3 and Spike protein. Several ligands are found to exhibit promising binding affinity and interaction with the Spike protein's N-terminal domain as well as with Galectin-3. This finding strongly suggests that existing Galectin-3 inhibitors possess dual-binding capabilities to disrupt Spike-ACE2 interactions. Herein we identify the most promising inhibitors of Galectin-3 and Spike proteins, of which five emerge as potential dual effective inhibitors. Our preliminary results warrant further in vitro and in vivo testing of these putative inhibitors against SARS-CoV-2 with the hope of being able to halt the spread of the virus in the future.

Keywords: COVID-19; Galectin-3; docking; dual inhibitors; spike.