Up State of the SARS-COV-2 Spike Homotrimer Favors an Increased Virulence for New Variants.

Giron CC, Laaksonen A, Barroso da Silva FL

Front Med Technol 3 (-) 694347 [2021-06-30; online 2021-06-30]

The COVID-19 pandemic has spread worldwide. However, as soon as the first vaccines-the only scientifically verified and efficient therapeutic option thus far-were released, mutations combined into variants of SARS-CoV-2 that are more transmissible and virulent emerged, raising doubts about their efficiency. This study aims to explain possible molecular mechanisms responsible for the increased transmissibility and the increased rate of hospitalizations related to the new variants. A combination of theoretical methods was employed. Constant-pH Monte Carlo simulations were carried out to quantify the stability of several spike trimeric structures at different conformational states and the free energy of interactions between the receptor-binding domain (RBD) and angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2) for the most worrying variants. Electrostatic epitopes were mapped using the PROCEEDpKa method. These analyses showed that the increased virulence is more likely to be due to the improved stability to the S trimer in the opened state, in which the virus can interact with the cellular receptor, ACE2, rather than due to alterations in the complexation RBD-ACE2, since the difference observed in the free energy values was small (although more attractive in general). Conversely, the South African/Beta variant (B.1.351), compared with the SARS-CoV-2 wild type (wt), is much more stable in the opened state with one or two RBDs in the up position than in the closed state with three RBDs in the down position favoring the infection. Such results contribute to understanding the natural history of disease and indicate possible strategies for developing new therapeutic molecules and adjusting the vaccine doses for higher B-cell antibody production.

Category: Genomics & transcriptomics

Category: Health

Type: Journal article

PubMed 35047936

DOI 10.3389/fmedt.2021.694347

Crossref 10.3389/fmedt.2021.694347

pmc: PMC8757851

Publications 7.1.2