Computational and Experimental Studies Reveal That Thymoquinone Blocks the Entry of Coronaviruses Into In Vitro Cells


Infect Dis Ther. 2021 Mar;10(1):483-494. doi: 10.1007/s40121-021-00400-2. Epub 2021 Feb 2.


INTRODUCTION: Since December 2019, severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic in China and worldwide. New drugs for the treatment of COVID-19 are in urgent need. Considering the long development time for new drugs, the identification of promising inhibitors from FDA-approved drugs is an imperative and valuable strategy. Recent studies have shown that the S1 and S2 subunits of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 utilize human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) as the receptor to infect human cells.

METHODS: We combined molecular docking and surface plasmon resonance (SPR) to identify potential inhibitors for ACE2 from available commercial medicines. We also designed coronavirus pseudoparticles that contain the spike protein assembled onto green fluorescent protein or luciferase reporter gene-carrying vesicular stomatitis virus core particles.

RESULTS: We found that thymoquinone, a phytochemical compound obtained from the plant Nigella sativa, is a potential drug candidate. SPR analysis confirmed the binding of thymoquinone to ACE2. We found that thymoquinone can inhibit SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV, and NL63 pseudoparticles infecting HEK293-ACE2 cells, with half-maximal inhibitory concentrations of 4.999, 7.598, and 6.019 μM, respectively. The SARS-CoV-2 pseudoparticle inhibition had half-maximal cytotoxic concentration of 35.100 μM and selection index = 7.020.

CONCLUSION: Thymoquinone is a potential broad-spectrum inhibitor for the treatment of coronavirus infections.

PMID:33532909 | PMC:PMC7853165 | DOI:10.1007/s40121-021-00400-2