We report on the novel observation about the gain in nanomechanical stability of the SARS-CoV-2 (CoV2) spike (S) protein in comparison with SARS-CoV from 2002 (CoV1). Our findings have several biological implications in the subfamily of coronaviruses, as they suggest that the receptor binding domain (RBD) (∼200 amino acids) plays a fundamental role as a damping element of the massive viral particle's motion prior to cell-recognition, while also facilitating viral attachment, fusion and entry. The mechanical stability via pulling of the RBD is 250 pN and 200 pN for CoV2 and CoV1 respectively, and the additional stability observed for CoV2 (∼50 pN) might play a role in the increasing spread of COVID-19.
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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