Severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is responsible for the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). An appealing antiviral drug target is the coronavirus 3C-like protease (3CLpro) that is responsible for the processing of the viral polyproteins and liberation of functional proteins essential for the maturation and infectivity of the virus. In this study, multiple thermal analytical techniques have been implemented to acquire the thermodynamic parameters of 3CLpro at different buffer conditions. 3CLpro exhibited relatively high thermodynamic stabilities over a wide pH range; however, the protease was found to be less stable in the presence of salts. Divalent metal cations reduced the thermodynamic stability of 3CLpro more than monovalent cations; however, altering the ionic strength of the buffer solution did not alter the stability of 3CLpro. Furthermore, the most stable thermal kinetic stability of 3CLpro was recorded at pH 7.5, with the highest enthalpy of activation calculated from the slope of Eyring plot. The biochemical and biophysical properties of 3CLpro explored here may improve the solubility and stability of 3CLpro for optimum conditions for the setup of an enzymatic assay for the screening of inhibitors to be used as lead candidates in the discovery of drugs and design of antiviral therapeutics against COVID-19.
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