Folic acid: a potential inhibitor against SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein

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Pharm Biol. 2022 Dec;60(1):862-878. doi: 10.1080/13880209.2022.2063341.


CONTEXT: Coronavirus disease 2019 is a global pandemic. Studies suggest that folic acid has antiviral effects. Molecular docking shown that folic acid can act on SARS-CoV-2 Nucleocapsid Phosphoprotein (SARS-CoV-2 N).

OBJECTIVE: To identify novel molecular therapeutic targets for SARS-CoV-2.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: Traditional Chinese medicine targets and virus-related genes were identified with network pharmacology and big data analysis. Folic acid was singled out by molecular docking, and its potential target SARS-CoV-2 N was identified. Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 N of folic acid was verified at the cellular level.

RESULTS: In total, 8355 drug targets were potentially involved in the inhibition of SARS-CoV-2. 113 hub genes were screened by further association analysis between targets and virus-related genes. The hub genes related compounds were analysed and folic acid was screened as a potential new drug. Moreover, molecular docking showed folic acid could target on SARS-CoV-2 N which inhibits host RNA interference (RNAi). Therefore, this study was based on RNAi to verify whether folic acid antagonises SARS-CoV-2 N. Cell-based experiments shown that RNAi decreased mCherry expression by 81.7% (p < 0.001). This effect was decreased by 8.0% in the presence of SARS-CoV-2 N, indicating that SARS-CoV-2 N inhibits RNAi. With increasing of folic acid concentration, mCherry expression decreased, indicating that folic acid antagonises the regulatory effect of SARS-CoV-2 N on host RNAi.

DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSIONS: Folic acid may be an antagonist of SARS-CoV-2 N, but its effect on viruses unclear. In future, the mechanisms of action of folic acid against SARS-CoV-2 N should be studied.

PMID:35594385 | DOI:10.1080/13880209.2022.2063341