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  1. Free, publicly-accessible full text available June 13, 2024
  2. 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. 
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  3. We report a distinct difference in the interactions of the glycans of the host-cell receptor, ACE2, with SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV S–protein receptor-binding domains (RBDs). Our analysis demonstrates that the ACE2 glycan at N322 enhances interactions with the SARS-CoV-2 RBD while the ACE2 glycan at N90 may offer protection against infections of both coronaviruses depending on its composition. The interactions of the ACE2 glycan at N322 with SARS-CoV RBD are blocked by the presence of the RBD glycan at N357 of the SARS-CoV RBD. The absence of this glycosylation site on SARS-CoV-2 RBD may enhance its binding with ACE2. 
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