Journal of Physical Chemistry B, Vol.123, No.13, 2889-2903, 2019
Quantum Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics (QM/MM) Calculations Support a Concerted Reaction Mechanism for the Zika Virus NS2B/NS3 Serine Protease with Its Substrate
Zika virus (ZIKV) is mainly transmitted to humans by Aedes species mosquitoes and is associated with serious pathological disorders including microcephaly in newborns and Guillain-Barre syndrome in adults. Currently, there is no vaccine or anti-ZIKV drug available for preventing or controlling ZIKV infection. An attractive drug target for ZIKV treatment is a two-compartment (NS2B/NS3) serine protease that processes viral polyprotein during infection. Here, conventional molecular dynamics simulations of the ZIKV protease in complex with peptide substrate (TGKRS) sequence at the C-terminus of NS2B show that the substrate is in the active conformation for the cleavage reaction by ZIKV protease. Hybrid quantum mechanics/molecular mechanics (QM/MM) umbrella sampling simulations (PM6/ff14SB) of acylation results reveal that proton transfer from S135 to H51 and nucleophilic attack on the substrate by S135 are concerted. The rate-limiting step involves the formation of a tetrahedral intermediate. In addition, the single-point energy QM/MM calculations, precisely at the level of coupled cluster theory (LCCSD(T)/(aug)-cc-pVTZ), were performed to correct the potential energy profiles for the first step of the acylation process. The average computed activation barrier at this level of theory is 16.3 kcal mol(-1). Therefore, the computational approaches presented here are helpful for further designing of NS2B/NS3 inhibitors based on transition-state analogues.