The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spurred unprecedented and concerted worldwide research to curtail and eradicate this pathogen. SARS-CoV-2 has four structural proteins: Envelope (E), Membrane (M), Nucleocapsid (N), and Spike (S), which self-assemble along with its RNA into the infectious virus by budding from intracellular lipid membranes. In this paper, we develop a model to explore the mechanisms of RNA condensation by structural proteins, protein oligomerization and cellular membrane–protein interactions that control the budding process and the ultimate virus structure. Using molecular dynamics simulations, we have deciphered how the positively charged N proteins interact and condense the very long genomic RNA resulting in its packaging by a lipid envelope decorated with structural proteins inside a host cell. Furthermore, considering the length of RNA and the size of the virus, we find that the intrinsic curvature of M proteins is essential for virus budding. While most current research has focused on the S protein, which is responsible for viral entry, and it has been motivated by the need to develop efficacious vaccines, the development of resistance through mutations in this crucial protein makes it essential to elucidate the details of the viralmore »
This content will become publicly available on April 26, 2023
Structural Dynamics and Molecular Evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein
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.
- Prasad, Vinayaka R.
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- National Science Foundation
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