Statins and the COVID-19 main protease: <i>in silico</i> evidence on direct interaction.
No proven drug and no immunisation are yet available for COVID-19 disease. The SARS-CoV-2 main protease (Mpro), a key coronavirus enzyme, which is a potential drug target, has been successfully crystallised. There is evidence suggesting that statins exert anti-viral activity and may block the infectivity of enveloped viruses. The aim of this study was to assess whether statins are potential COVID-19 Mpro inhibitors, using a molecular docking study. Molecular docking was performed using AutoDock/Vina, a computational docking program. SARS-CoV-2 Mpro was docked with all statins, while antiviral and antiretroviral drugs - favipiravir, nelfinavir, and lopinavir - were used as standards for comparison. The binding energies obtained from the docking of 6LU7 with native ligand favipiravir, nelfinavir, lopinavir, simvastatin, rosuvastatin, pravastatin, pitavastatin, lovastatin, fluvastatin, and atorvastatin were -6.8, -5.8, -7.9, -7.9, -7.0, -7.7, -6.6, -8.2, -7.4, -7.7, and -6.8 kcal/mol, respectively. The number of hydrogen bonds between statins and amino acid residues of Mpro were 7, 4, and 3 for rosuvastatin, pravastatin, and atorvastatin, respectively, while other statins had two hydrogen bonds. These results indicate, based upon the binding energy of pitavastatin, rosuvastatin, lovastatin, and fluvastatin, that statins could be efficient SARS-CoV-2 Mpro inhibitors. This is supported by the fact that the effects of some statins, especially pitavastatin, have a binding energy that is even greater than that of protease or polymerase inhibitors. However, further research is necessary to investigate their potential use as drugs for COVID-19.