Data_Sheet_1_In silico Drug Screening Approach Using L1000-Based Connectivity Map and Its Application to COVID-19.docx
Conventional drug screening methods search for a limited number of small molecules that directly interact with the target protein. This process can be slow, cumbersome and has driven the need for developing new drug screening approaches to counter rapidly emerging diseases such as COVID-19. We propose a pipeline for drug repurposing combining in silico drug candidate identification followed by in vitro characterization of these candidates. We first identified a gene target of interest, the entry receptor for the SARS-CoV-2 virus, angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Next, we employed a gene expression profile database, L1000-based Connectivity Map to query gene expression patterns in lung epithelial cells, which act as the primary site of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Using gene expression profiles from 5 different lung epithelial cell lines, we computationally identified 17 small molecules that were predicted to decrease ACE2 expression. We further performed a streamlined validation in the normal human epithelial cell line BEAS-2B to demonstrate that these compounds can indeed decrease ACE2 surface expression and to profile cell health and viability upon drug treatment. This proposed pipeline combining in silico drug compound identification and in vitro expression and viability characterization in relevant cell types can aid in the repurposing of FDA-approved drugs to combat rapidly emerging diseases.