Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Molecular Modelling and Docking Experiments Examining the Interaction between SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein and Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors

Version 1 : Received: 21 May 2020 / Approved: 23 May 2020 / Online: 23 May 2020 (10:06:14 CEST)

How to cite: Farsalinos, K.; Eliopoulos, E.; Leonidas, D.; Papadopoulos, G.; Tzartos, S.; Poulas, K. Molecular Modelling and Docking Experiments Examining the Interaction between SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein and Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. Preprints 2020, 2020050365 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202005.0365.v1). Farsalinos, K.; Eliopoulos, E.; Leonidas, D.; Papadopoulos, G.; Tzartos, S.; Poulas, K. Molecular Modelling and Docking Experiments Examining the Interaction between SARS-CoV-2 Spike Glycoprotein and Neuronal Nicotinic Acetylcholine Receptors. Preprints 2020, 2020050365 (doi: 10.20944/preprints202005.0365.v1).

Abstract

While SARS-CoV-2 uses angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as the receptor for cell entry, it is important to examine for other potential interactions between the virus and other cell receptors. Based on the clinical observation of low smoking prevalence among hospitalized COVID-19 patients, we recently identified a “toxin-like” amino acid (aa) sequence on the receptor binding domain of the spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 (aa 375-390) with homology to a sequence of a snake venom toxin, which could interact with nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs). We now present computational molecular modelling and docking experiments using 3D structures of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and the extracellular domain of the nAChR alpha9 subunit. We identified an interaction between the aa381-386 of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein and the aa189-192 of the extracellular domain of the nAChR alpha9 subunit, a region which forms the core of the “toxin-binding site” of the nAChRs. The mode of interaction is very similar to the interaction between the alpha9 nAChR and alpha-bungarotoxin. A similar interaction was observed between the pentameric alpha7 AChR and the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein. Our findings support the hypothesis that severe COVID-19 may be associated with disruption of the nicotinic cholinergic system which could be caused by an interaction between SARS-CoV-2 and nAChRs.

Subject Areas

COVID-19; SARS-CoV-2; smoking; nicotine; nicotinic cholinergic system; inflammation; acetylcholine receptors

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