skip to main content

Title: Sterically confined rearrangements of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein control cell invasion
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is highly contagious, and transmission involves a series of processes that may be targeted by vaccines and therapeutics. During transmission, host cell invasion is controlled by a large-scale (200–300 Å) conformational change of the Spike protein. This conformational rearrangement leads to membrane fusion, which creates transmembrane pores through which the viral genome is passed to the host. During Spike-protein-mediated fusion, the fusion peptides must be released from the core of the protein and associate with the host membrane. While infection relies on this transition between the prefusion and postfusion conformations, there has yet to be a biophysical characterization reported for this rearrangement. That is, structures are available for the endpoints, though the intermediate conformational processes have not been described. Interestingly, the Spike protein possesses many post-translational modifications, in the form of branched glycans that flank the surface of the assembly. With the current lack of data on the pre-to-post transition, the precise role of glycans during cell invasion has also remained unclear. To provide an initial mechanistic description of the pre-to-post rearrangement, an all-atom model with simplified energetics was used to perform thousands of simulations in which the protein transitions between the prefusion more » and postfusion conformations. These simulations indicate that the steric composition of the glycans can induce a pause during the Spike protein conformational change. We additionally show that this glycan-induced delay provides a critical opportunity for the fusion peptides to capture the host cell. In contrast, in the absence of glycans, the viral particle would likely fail to enter the host. This analysis reveals how the glycosylation state can regulate infectivity, while providing a much-needed structural framework for studying the dynamics of this pervasive pathogen. « less
; ;
Award ID(s):
2019745 1915843
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. Activation of SARS-CoV-2 Spike deploys its fusion peptide to a membrane of the host cell to infect it. NMR in solution demonstrates that this fusion peptide transforms from intrinsic disorder in solution into a wedge-shaped structure inserted in bilayered micelles. According to NOEs and proximity to a nitroxide spin label deep in the membrane mimic, the globular fold of three helices contrasts the open, extended conformations observed in compact prefusion states. In the hydrophobic, narrow end of the wedge, helices 1 and 2 contact the fatty acyl chains of phospholipids. 50 of the resulting paramagnetic NMR relaxation enhancements and 6 lipid-protein NOEs provided ambiguous distances as collective variables (colvars) to bias and guide MD simulations. Simulations in NAMD using the CHARMM36 forcefield included colvars for 130 medium- and long-range NOEs to maintain the equilibrium structure. In the gently NMR-biased simulations, the fusion peptide maintained its insertion of helices 1 and 2 within a single leaflet while helix 3 remained exposed. A cation occasionally visited the anionic side chains in the loop joining helices 2 and 3 or at the N-terminal end of helix 1. The unoccupied leaflet is thinned and distorted opposite the fusion peptide.The thinning could be related tomore »the fusion peptide promoting formation of the hemi-fusion intermediate in the process of viral-cell fusion. Supported by NSF Rapid award 2030473.« less
  2. Prasad, Vinayaka R. (Ed.)
    ABSTRACT The ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic demonstrates the threat posed by novel coronaviruses to human health. Coronaviruses share a highly conserved cell entry mechanism mediated by the spike protein, the sole product of the S gene. The structural dynamics by which the spike protein orchestrates infection illuminate how antibodies neutralize virions and how S mutations contribute to viral fitness. Here, we review the process by which spike engages its proteinaceous receptor, angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), and how host proteases prime and subsequently enable efficient membrane fusion between virions and target cells. We highlight mutations common among severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants of concern and discuss implications for cell entry. Ultimately, we provide a model by which sarbecoviruses are activated for fusion competency and offer a framework for understanding the interplay between humoral immunity and the molecular evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike. In particular, we emphasize the relevance of the Canyon Hypothesis (M. G. Rossmann, J Biol Chem 264:14587–14590, 1989) for understanding evolutionary trajectories of viral entry proteins during sustained intraspecies transmission of a novel viral pathogen.
  3. Abstract

    The molecular events that permit the spike glycoprotein of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) to bind and enter cells are important to understand for both fundamental and therapeutic reasons. Spike proteins consist of S1 and S2 domains, which recognize angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors and contain the viral fusion machinery, respectively. Ostensibly, the binding of spike trimers to ACE2 receptors promotes dissociation of the S1 domains and exposure of the fusion machinery, although the molecular details of this process have yet to be observed. We report the development of bottom-up coarse-grained (CG) models consistent with cryo-electron tomography data, and the use of CG molecular dynamics simulations to investigate viral binding and S2 core exposure. We show that spike trimers cooperatively bind to multiple ACE2 dimers at virion-cell interfaces in a manner distinct from binding between soluble proteins, which processively induces S1 dissociation. We also simulate possible variant behavior using perturbed CG models, and find that ACE2-induced S1 dissociation is primarily sensitive to conformational state populations and the extent of S1/S2 cleavage, rather than ACE2 binding affinity. These simulations reveal an important concerted interaction between spike trimers and ACE2 dimers that primes the virus for membrane fusion andmore »entry.

    « less
  4. The novel coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted modern societies and their economies. The resurgence in COVID-19 cases as part of the second wave is observed across Europe and the Americas. The scientific response has enabled a complete structural characterization of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—novel Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Among the most relevant proteins required by the novel coronavirus to facilitate the cell entry mechanism is the spike protein. This protein possesses a receptor-binding domain (RBD) that binds the cellular angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and then triggers the fusion of viral and host cell membranes. In this regard, a comprehensive characterization of the structural stability of the spike protein is a crucial step to find new therapeutics to interrupt the process of recognition. On the other hand, it has been suggested that the participation of more than one RBD is a possible mechanism to enhance cell entry. Here, we discuss the protein structural stability based on the computational determination of the dynamic contact map and the energetic difference of the spike protein conformations via the mapping of the hydration free energy by the Poisson–Boltzmann method. We expect our result to foster the discussion of the number of RBD involvedmore »during recognition and the repurposing of new drugs to disable the recognition by discovering new hotspots for drug targets apart from the flexible loop in the RBD that binds the ACE2.« less
  5. Abstract The trimeric spike (S) glycoprotein, which protrudes from the SARS-CoV-2 viral envelope, binds to human ACE2, initiated by at least one protomer’s receptor binding domain (RBD) switching from a "down” (closed) to an "up” (open) state. Here, we used large-scale molecular dynamics simulations and two-dimensional replica exchange umbrella sampling calculations with more than a thousand windows and an aggregate total of 160 μ s of simulation to investigate this transition with and without glycans. We find that the glycosylated spike has a higher barrier to opening and also energetically favors the down state over the up state. Analysis of the S-protein opening pathway reveals that glycans at N165 and N122 interfere with hydrogen bonds between the RBD and the N-terminal domain in the up state, while glycans at N165 and N343 can stabilize both the down and up states. Finally, we estimate how epitope exposure for several known antibodies changes along the opening path. We find that the BD-368-2 antibody’s epitope is continuously exposed, explaining its high efficacy.