Characterization of peptide binding to the SARS-CoV-2 host factor neuropilin

Amie Jobe, Ranjit Vijayan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is a global health concern. It is now well established that the spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 interacts with its primary host receptor, the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Additionally, the interaction of S with the neuropilin (NRP) receptor has been reported to facilitate viral entry. SARS-CoV-2 S protein binds to neuropilin-1 (NRP1) by virtue of a CendR motif which terminates with either an arginine or lysine. Furthermore, a number of different peptide sequences have been reported to bind to the same site in NRP1 including vascular endothelial growth factor A and other viral proteins. To gain a deeper understanding of additional factors besides the C-terminal arginine that may favour high NRP1 binding, several modelled peptides were investigated using triplicate 1 μs molecular dynamics simulations. A C-end histidine failed to exhibit strong NRP1 affinity. Some previously reported factors that increase binding affinity and secure NRP1 receptor acti-vation was observed in the NRP1-peptide complexes studied and such complexes had higher molecular mechanics-generalized Born surface area based free energy of binding. Additionally, the results also highlight the relevance of an exposed arginine at its canonical location as capping it blocked arginine from engaging key residues at the NRP1 receptor site that are indispensable for functional binding; and that the presence of proline reinforces the C-terminal arginine. Given that stable NRP1 binding is crucial for viral uptake, stable interactions should be accounted for in the design of potential drugs and treatment routes to target or disrupt this interface, considering the S1-NRP1 interaction as well as its endogenous VEGF-A ligand that is associated with nociception.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere08251
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • CendR motif
  • Molecular dynamic
  • Neuropilin
  • Spike protein
  • VEGF-A

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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