Theses Doctoral

Identification of SARS-CoV-2 Polymerase and Exonuclease Inhibitors and Novel Methods for Single-Color Fluorescent DNA Sequencing by Synthesis

Wang, Xuanting

This dissertation is divided into two main sections describing major portions of my Ph.D. research: (1) development of two enzymatic assays for identifying inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 RNA dependent RNA polymerase (RdRp) and the associated proofreading exonuclease complexes, two key enzymatic activities of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic and (2) the design and implementation of four novel single-color fluorescent DNA sequencing by synthesis (SBS) methods, including the synthesis of many of the key nucleotide analogues required for these studies.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first part of my research is focused on the discovery of potential therapeutics for combating coronavirus infections. Chapter 1 describes the identification of several polymerase and exonuclease inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2 using novel mass spectrometry-based molecular assays. SARS-CoV-2 has an exonuclease complex, which removes nucleotide inhibitors such as Remdesivir that are incorporated into the viral RNA during replication, reducing the efficacy of these drugs for treating COVID-19. Combinations of inhibitors of both the viral RdRp and the exonuclease could overcome this deficiency. Chapter 1 reports the identification of hepatitis C virus NS5A inhibitors Pibrentasvir and Ombitasvir as SARS-CoV-2 exonuclease inhibitors. In the presence of identified exonuclease inhibitors, RNAs terminated with the active forms of the prodrugs like Sofosbuvir, Remdesivir and Favipiravir were largely protected from excision by the exonuclease, while in the absence of exonuclease inhibitors, there was rapid excision. Viral cell culture studies also demonstrate significant synergy using this combination strategy. This study supports the use of combination drugs that inhibit both the SARS-CoV-2 polymerase and exonuclease for effective COVID-19 treatment.

Chapters 2-6 describe the single-color DNA SBS studies. Chapter 2 provides essential background on the structure of DNA, the DNA polymerase reaction, and several key DNA sequencing technologies, with an emphasis on the design of nucleotide analogues for the DNA SBS approach. Chapter 3 delineates a one-color fluorescent DNA SBS method based on a set of nucleotide reversible terminators (NRTs) comprising two orthogonal cleavable linkers, one fluorescent dye and one anchor. Chapter 4 describes a one-color hybrid DNA sequencing approach using a set of dideoxynucleotide analogues bearing two orthogonal cleavable linkers, one fluorophore and one anchor as well as a set of unlabeled NRTs. By introducing a pH responsive fluorophore into the design of nucleotide analogues, Chapter 5 demonstrates a novel type of single-color DNA SBS method using a set of NRTs comprising one pH-responsive fluorescent dye or one non-responsive fluorescent dye tethered with one cleavable linker. Chapter 6 presents another option for the single-color DNA sequencing technique using a set of deoxynucleotide analogues comprising the above pH responsive or non-responsive dyes tethered with a cleavable linker, along with a set of unlabeled NRTs. The one-color SBS approaches have the potential for higher sensitivity, miniaturization and cost effectiveness compared with four-color SBS methods.

Finally, Chapter 7 summarizes the SARS-CoV-2 antiviral drug discovery and one-color sequencing techniques and discusses potential follow-up research on these projects.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Chemical Engineering
Thesis Advisors
Ju, Jingyue
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 15, 2021