Molecular Insights into the Variability in Infection and Immune Evasion Capabilities of SARS-CoV-2 Variants: A Sequence and Structural Investigation of the RBD Domain.

Publication date: Mar 22, 2024

As severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants continuously emerge, an increasing number of mutations are accumulating in the Spike protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) region. Through sequence analysis of various Variants of Concern (VOC), we identified that they predominantly fall within the ο lineage although recent variants introduce any novel mutations in the RBD. Molecular dynamics simulations were employed to compute the binding free energy of these variants with human Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Structurally, the binding interface of the ο RBD displays a strong positive charge, complementing the negatively charged binding interface of ACE2, resulting in a significant enhancement in the electrostatic potential energy for the ο variants. Although the increased potential energy is partially offset by the rise in polar solvation free energy, enhanced electrostatic potential contributes to the long-range recognition between the ο variant’s RBD and ACE2. We also conducted simulations of glycosylated ACE2-RBD proteins. The newly emerged ο (JN. 1) variant has added a glycosylation site at N-354@RBD, which significantly weakened its binding affinity with ACE2. Further, our interaction studies with three monoclonal antibodies across multiple SARS-CoV-2 strains revealed a diminished neutralization efficacy against the ο variants, primarily attributed to the electrostatic repulsion between the antibodies and RBD interface. Considering the characteristics of the ο variant and the trajectory of emerging strains, we propose that newly developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 RBD should have surfaces rich in negative potential and, postbinding, exhibit strong van der Waals interactions. These findings provide invaluable guidance for the formulation of future therapeutic strategies.

Concepts Keywords
Coronavirus Ace2
Glycosylation Antibodies
Polar Binding
Postbinding Cov
Rich Domain


Type Source Name
disease MESH Infection
disease VO Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
drug DRUGBANK Angiotensin II
disease IDO site

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