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Quantum Mechanics/Molecular Mechanics (QM/MM) Calculations Support a Concerted Reaction Mechanism for the Zika Virus NS2B/NS3 Serine Protease with Its Substrate

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2889-2903
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Physical Chemistry B
Issue number13
Early online date7 Mar 2019
DateAccepted/In press - 6 Mar 2019
DateE-pub ahead of print - 7 Mar 2019
DatePublished (current) - 4 Apr 2019


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-Barré 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.



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