Researchers identify molecules that can destroy RNA sequence of Covid-19

Prashasti Awasthi Mumbai | Updated on October 02, 2020

The scientists, through their research, found that the RNA present in SARS-CoV-2 folds into different shapes

Scientists believe the drug potency can be increased with introduction of other molecules that can destroy the RNA sequencing

Coronavirus, Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, Scripps Research Institute, health, pandemic, genes, RNA, DNA

Scientists at the Scripps Research Institute, Florida, United States, have discovered new molecules that can target the RNA (ribonucleic acid) of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

RNA is a polymeric molecule essential in various biological roles in coding, decoding, regulation, and expression of genes. RNA is similar to DNA found in cells. However, RNA only has a single strand, unlike DNA. The virus that has caused the pandemic has RNA as its genetic make-up.

The scientists, through their research, found that the RNA present in SARS-CoV-2 folds into different shapes. These can be targeted by drugs.

The study further said that one of the regions of the RNA, known as the frameshifting element (FSE), has a hairpin type structure, which takes help from other structures to help the virus translate genes into proteins and spread the infection.

The researchers noted that they have found a small-molecular drug that could help target the RNA sequence of the virus and stop its replication.

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The study, recently published in the journal ACS Central Science, conducted by Dr Matthew Disney and Dr Hafeez Haniff, along with their colleagues, carried out microarray experiments that helped them examine thousands of genes at the same time and to target the small-molecular drug to bind itself to a specific region of the SARS-CoV-2 FSE hairpin.

Scientists believe that the drug potency could be increased with the introduction of other molecules that can destroy the RNA sequencing.


After the examination of different molecules, researchers found a small drug-like molecule — 5 (C5) — that ideally binds to the hairpin structure of SARS-CoV-2 with a Kd of 11 nanometers.

Kd is the unit used to determine the binding capacity of a molecule. It is found that the molecule the scientists intended to use impairs the FSE in the cells by bringing down the gene-translation efficiency of the hairpin by 25 per cent.

Thus, it reduced the ability of SARS-CoV-2 to make essential proteins for spreading the infection.

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In order to further enhance the potency of CF, scientists also introduced another molecule called ribonuclease-targeting chimera (RIBOTAC), to it.

RIBOTAC recruits a cellular ribonuclease to destroy the viral genome, named C5-RIBOTAC, and convert it into C5-Chem-CLIP, which can directly target the viral RNA, the study noted.

It was found that RIBOTAC increased the efficiency of C5 10-fold.

Scientists are examining these molecules and aim to form a drug using RIBOTAC-containing compounds to prevent the spread of SARS-CoV-2.

Published on October 02, 2020

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