New Mexico Consortium scientist Wataru Nishima and colleagues recently published their work, “Full-Length Computational Model of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein and Its Implications for a Viral Membrane Fusion Mechanism“, in Viruses, an open access journal by MDPI.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus (COVID-19) emerged in December 2019 and quickly spread across the world due to it’s high infection rates. As of June 2021, COVID-19 has resulted in over 175 million cases and 3.8 million deaths worldwide, which as had severe implications on public health and the economy. This virus has become one of the greatest causes of infectious death and morbidity since the 1918 flu epidemic.
Currently, several vaccines for COVID-19 are approved, but scientists are still looking for new methods of prevention and treatment.
Scientists that have analyzed the entire genome of the virus found that it is 96% identical to the bat coronavirus, which is thought to be the origin of COVID-19. Past studies of coronaviruses have found that the infection begins when the viral spike protein binds to its hosts’ cognate receptor(s). Then the virus uses membrane fusion to deliver the viral RNA into the host cell.
In this study, the scientists create a membrane fusion model that incorporates structural transitions associated with the proteolytic processing of the spike protein. The cleavage of the spike protein is what starts and regulates a series of events so that the virus can facilitate membrane fusion and viral genome uptake.
This paper states that, “…our understanding of the structure–function dynamics of the spike protein during the membrane fusion process and viral uptake remains incomplete. Employing computational approaches, we use full-length structural models of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein integrating Cryo-EM images and biophysical properties, which fill the gaps in our understanding.”
The results of this study show that the comprehensive view accounts for distinct neutralizing antibody binding effects targeting the spike protein and the enhanced infectivity of the SARS-CoV-2 variant. It is important to better understand how the COVID-19 virus works so that scientists can create better methods of prevention and treatment in the future.
To read the entire paper see: “Full-Length Computational Model of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein and Its Implications for a Viral Membrane Fusion Mechanism“.