GCG inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication by disrupting the liquid phase condensation of its nucleocapsid protein.
Nat Commun. 2021 04 9 ;12(1):2114. Epub 2021 Apr 9. PMID: 33837182
Lack of detailed knowledge of SARS-CoV-2 infection has been hampering the development of treatments for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Here, we report that RNA triggers the liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) of the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein, N. By analyzing all 29 proteins of SARS-CoV-2, we find that only N is predicted as an LLPS protein. We further confirm the LLPS of N during SARS-CoV-2 infection. Among the 100,849 genome variants of SARS-CoV-2 in the GISAID database, we identify that ~37% (36,941) of the genomes contain a specific trio-nucleotide polymorphism (GGG-to-AAC) in the coding sequence of N, which leads to the amino acid substitutions, R203K/G204R. Interestingly, Nexhibits a higher propensity to undergo LLPS and a greater effect on IFN inhibition. By screening the chemicals known to interfere with N-RNA binding in other viruses, we find that (-)-gallocatechin gallate (GCG), a polyphenol from green tea, disrupts the LLPS of N and inhibits SARS-CoV-2 replication. Thus, our study reveals that targeting N-RNA condensation with GCG could be a potential treatment for COVID-19.