Global Upfront Newspapers
Cover Health News

Sugar-coated shield helps the COVID-19 Virus become activated and infectious


Image of the SARS-CoV-2 spike in the active position. Dark blue glycans shield the spike from the immune system, participate in activation, and stabilize the active form. The receptor binding domain changes shape in order to bind human cells is shown in cyan. Credit: Lorenzo Casalino, Amaro Lab, UCSD

SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is coated with sugars called glycans, which help it evade the immune system. New research shows precisely how those sugars help the virus become activated and infectious and could help with vaccine and drug discovery.

One thing that makes SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, elusive to the immune system is that it is covered in sugars called glycans. Once SARS-CoV-2 infects someone’s body, it becomes covered in that person’s unique glycans, making it difficult for the immune system to recognize the virus as something it needs to fight.

Those glycans also play an important role in activating the virus. Terra Sztain-Pedone, a graduate student, and colleagues in the labs of Rommie Amaro at the University of California, San Diego and Lillian Chong at the University of Pittsburgh, studied exactly how the glycans activate SARS-CoV-2.

Sztain-Pedone will present the research on Thursday, February 25, 2021, at the 65th Annual Meeting of the Biophysical Society.

For SARS-CoV-2 to become activated and infectious, the spike proteins on the outside of the virus need to change shape so it can stick to our cells. Scientists knew that the glycans that coat these spikes help SARS-CoV-2 evade the immune system, but it was not known what role they played in the activation process.

Studying these molecules is tricky because they are so small and have many parts that move in subtle ways. “There are half a million atoms in just one of these spike protein simulations,” Sztain-Pedone explained.

Using advanced High Performance Computing algorithms that run many simulations in parallel, the research team examined how the positions of each of those atoms changes as the SARS-CoV-2 spike becomes activated. “Most computers wouldn’t be able to do this with half a million atoms,” Sztain-Pedone says.

The team was able to identify the glycans and molecules that are responsible for activating the spike protein. “Surprisingly, one glycan seems to be responsible for initiating the entire opening,” Sztain-Pedone says.

Other glycans are involved in subsequent steps. To validate their findings, the team is currently working with Jason McLellan, a professor at the University of Texas, Austin, and colleagues who are performing experiments with spike proteins in the lab.

There is potential to use the simulations developed by Sztain-Pedone and colleagues to identify treatments that will block or prevent SARS-CoV-2 activation. “Because we have all these structures, we can do small molecule screening with computational algorithms,” Sztain-Pedone explained.

They can also study new virus mutations, such as the B.1.1.7 variant that is currently spreading, to “look at how that might affect the spike protein activation,” Sztain-Pedone says.

Advertize With Us

See Also

Peter Obi: Massive Defection In South East PDP As Aspirants Resign, Withdraw From National, State Assembly Election Primaries

Global Upfront

IPOB Names Uzodinma, Ihedioha, Ararume, Okorocha, Mbata As Sponsors Of Killings In Imo State

Global Upfront

EFCC Uncovers 17 Properties Linked To Nigeria’s Accountant General’s N80 Billion Heist

Global Upfront

Why U.S. removed visa reciprocity fees for Nigerian citizens

Global Upfront

NAF Airstrikes Kill ISWAP Kingpins Ali Kwaya, Bukar Mainoka, Scores Of Terrorists At Belowa, Near Lake Chad

Global Upfront

Four U.S. Vice President, Kamala Harris, aides quit, brand her ‘bully,’ accused of inflicting ‘constant, soul-destroying criticism’ on staff

Global Upfront

Toll Gates: “Downright act of wickedness against the suffering Nigerian masses,” PDP tells APC

Global Upfront

A 19-Year-Old Who Blackmailed a Girl for Nudes Just Won a Democratic Primary in Kansas

Global Upfront

African Development Bank set to join landmark $20 billion Mozambique LNG financing

Global Upfront

COVID-19 in Nigeria: Its effects and lessons for us

Global Upfront

This website uses Cookies to improve User experience. We assume this is OK...If not, please opt-out! Accept Read More