Scientists Discover Sugar Molecules in SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Spike Protein Play Active Role in Infection

SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein Glycans

In this illustration, glycans (dark blue) coat the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein (light blue), which is anchored in the viral envelope (colorful bilayer on bottom). Credit: Adapted from ACS Central Science 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.0c01056

As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, researchers are working overtime to develop vaccines and therapies to thwart SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease Many efforts focus on the coronavirus spike protein, which binds the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on human cells to allow viral entry. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have uncovered an active role for glycans — sugar molecules that can decorate proteins — in this process, suggesting targets for vaccines and therapies.

Before the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can interact with ACE2 on a human cell, it changes shape to expose its receptor binding domain (RBD), the part of the protein that interacts with ACE2. Like many viral proteins, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has a thick coat of glycans on its surface. These glycans, which are attached at specific sites, help shield the viral proteins from the host immune system. Rommie Amaro and colleagues at University of California San Diego, Maynooth University (Ireland) and the University of Texas at Austin wondered whether certain glycans in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein might also be active players in the process leading to infection.

To find out, the researchers used structural and glycomic data to build molecular dynamics simulations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein embedded in the viral membrane. The computer models, which presented a detailed snapshot of every atom in the spike glycoprotein, revealed that N-glycans linked to the spike protein at certain sites (N165 and N234) helped stabilize the shape change that exposes the RBD, which could help promote infection. The simulations also identified regions of the spike protein that weren’t coated by glycans and thus could be vulnerable to antibodies, especially after the shape change. In laboratory experiments using biolayer interferometry, the team showed that mutating the spike protein so that it no longer had glycans at N165 and N234 reduced binding to ACE2. These results lay the foundation for new strategies to fight the pandemic threat, the researchers say.

Reference: “Beyond Shielding: The Roles of Glycans in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein” by Lorenzo Casalino, Zied Gaieb, Jory A. Goldsmith, Christy K. Hjorth, Abigail C. Dommer, Aoife M. Harbison, Carl A. Fogarty, Emilia P. Barros, Bryn C. Taylor, Jason S. McLellan, Elisa Fadda and Rommie E. Amaro, 23 September 2020, ACS Central Science.
DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.0c01056

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation, the Research Corporation for Science Advancement, UC San Diego Moores Cancer Center, the Irish Research Council, and the Visible Molecular Cell Consortium.

7 Comments on "Scientists Discover Sugar Molecules in SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Spike Protein Play Active Role in Infection"

  1. Wow. Its great. It means sugar can control the Sars-CoV-2?

  2. Proteins. Proteins. Proteins. All life revolves around proteins. All living life forms on Earth have these amazing things called brains that are much better at doing things than any computer or anything else. Feed that brain of ours with foods that have all the proteins that a human needs to create a cell of any kind and just maybe our bodies will assemble whatever is needed for the body to fight off the coronavirus as well as many other illnesses. Combine that food that has all the proteins one’s body’s needs to make cells of any kind with 2 Centrum equivalent multi vitamins which are to be taken at least five hours apart with a healthy meal that has all the 9 different proteins that the human body needs to make any body cell of any kind. Now I say to take 2 vitamins in one day hours apart because I have taken 2 vitamins in one day for 25 years every time I felt like I was coming down with the flu and every time I did that it would stop the progress of the flu feeling in my body and I wouldn’t develop the flu at all. So perhaps if we give the body all the proteins and vitamins and minerals it needs to create any cell of any kind then perhaps the body will assemble cells that can fight off the coronavirus and other illnesses. It won’t hurt to try it. It may work for some better than others. If it works at all then it will be an inexpensive, easy way to stop illnesses brought on by viruses and germs. Now there is a food recipe called Adelynn’s Miracle Beans that has all the 9 different proteins that the human body needs to make any kind of cell. Try the recipe with two vitamins a day and let’s see what happens! What have we got to lose! See facebook.com/ron.mccune.3 to see more info about this.

  3. No to both of you

  4. Get Me Off This Planet | September 23, 2020 at 2:47 pm | Reply

    Hey, I recognized words in the above article. Because I recognized them and can remember seeing those same words in pop culture contexts, I can now solve covid. Easy! Eat more beans, double your vitamin intake, and make sure you’re getting your US RDA for sugar every day!

  5. Sugar is a crime. Processed foods are packed with them. They’re killing us every day!

    • Glycans, the saccharides cited in this article, are not table sugar which is sucrose, a disaccharide composed of glucose-fructose.

  6. Dear All
    We have found N-acetyl d glucosamine (is also sugar molecule) plays key role in SARS-Cov-2 but the journals do not accept my paper. Please be aware we are the first that we found it. But they still continue ignoring please share this knowledgw with all.

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