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Thailand Medical - Electrostatics - SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry  Jul 03, 2023  7 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 17 hours, 59 minutes ago

Unveiling the Role of Electrostatics in SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry And The Evolution Of New Variants

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Unveiling the Role of Electrostatics in SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry And The Evolution Of New Variants
Thailand Medical - Electrostatics - SARS-CoV-2 Cell Entry  Jul 03, 2023  7 months, 3 weeks, 1 day, 17 hours, 59 minutes ago
German Study Finds That Electrostatics Plays A Key Role In SARS-Cov-2 Cell Entry And All New Sub-Lineages Are Evolving Towards Maximizing This!
Thailand Medical: The COVID-19 pandemic has gripped the world, and understanding the mechanisms behind viral infection has become crucial. In particular, the electrostatic interactions between respiratory viruses and host cells have emerged as a key player in the early stages of infection. Researchers at Freie Universität Berlin in Germany have conducted a revealing study shedding light on the role of electrostatics in SARS-CoV-2 cell entry. Their findings not only provide insights into the infection process but also reveal a trend where new variants of concern (VOCs) are evolving to exploit this electrostatic interaction.

Early stages of cellular infection by SARS-CoV-2. (A) Repeating unit of heparan sulfate. (B) In the first step, S interacts closely with heparan sulfate attached to HSPG by strong electrostatic interactions. In a second step, interaction of S with the ACE2 receptor initiates uptake of the virion into the cell by endocytosis and, ultimately, S-mediated fusion of the virus envelope with endosomal membranes. (C) The electrostatic potential map of the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the wild-type (Wuhan) spike glycoprotein is represented. Positively charged amino acids located on the surface of the S homotrimer interact strongly with the highly negatively charged heparan sulfate moieties of the HSPG
The Intricate Interaction of Viruses and Cells
In the intricate interplay between viruses and host cells, electrostatic interactions play a vital role. The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, responsible for binding to host cells, interacts with heparan sulfate (HS) chains on the cell surface through electrostatic forces. This initial interaction allows the virion to attach to the cell surface. Subsequently, the spike's receptor binding domain (RBD) binds to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, facilitating viral entry into the cell. By calculating the surface potential of spike proteins using the Adaptive Poison-Boltzmann-Solver (APBS), the researchers demonstrated that electrostatic forces govern these critical events.
Evolutionary Advantage of Electrostatic Interaction
The study team compared different strains of SARS-CoV-2, including the original Wuhan strain and the highly transmissible Omicron variant. They found that the Omicron variant exhibited an increased positive surface potential due to additional positively charged amino acids on the spike protein. This enhanced positive charge led to a stronger binding of the Omicron variant to HS, potentially explaining its higher infectivity compared to the original wild-type virus. Intriguingly, despite these changes, the specific interaction between the RBD and the ACE2 receptor remained relatively constant.
Lead Researcher, Dr Daniel Lauster, an assistant professor at Freie Universität Berlin told Thailand Medical News, “This suggests that electrostatic interactions are inst rumental in the early stages of infection, while the RBD-ACE2 binding remains consistent.”
Expanding the Scope-Insights into Other Viruses
The study also delved into the broader implications of electrostatic interactions in virus-cell interactions. They explored the relevance of electrostatic processes in other respiratory viruses such as human respiratory syncytial virus (hRSV) and human metapneumovirus (hMPV). The findings revealed that electrostatic interactions with host cells are vital for the entry of these viruses as well. In contrast, viruses like MERS, HCoV-NL63, and HCoV-OC43 do not rely on electrostatic interactions for cell entry. These observations emphasize the significance of electrostatics in viral infections and highlight potential avenues for therapeutic interventions targeting these interactions.
Implications for Future Research
Understanding the role of electrostatics in viral infections opens up exciting possibilities for future research. The study's findings suggest that inhibitors designed to prevent virus binding to host cells should consider targeting negatively charged entities that disrupt the electrostatic interaction between the virus and HS. This could provide a promising avenue for the development of antiviral strategies. Moreover, the researchers' approach of analyzing surface potential maps using APBS can be extended to study other viruses, paving the way for a deeper understanding of virus-host interactions.
The study findsing has unveiled the critical role of electrostatic interactions in SARS-CoV-2 cell entry and the evolution of new variants. Electrostatic forces mediate the initial binding of the spike protein to heparan sulfate on host cells, while the RBD-ACE2 interaction facilitates viral entry. The emergence of highly transmissible variants, such as the Omicron variant, is linked to an enhanced positive surface potential of the spike protein, resulting in stronger binding to heparan sulfate and potentially increased infectivity.
This research expands our understanding of virus-host interactions beyond SARS-CoV-2, emphasizing the relevance of electrostatics in other respiratory viruses like hRSV and hMPV.
The findings of this study have important implications for the development of antiviral strategies. Targeting the electrostatic interactions between viruses and host cells, specifically the binding to heparan sulfate, could be a promising approach to prevent viral entry and infection. By disrupting the electrostatic forces involved in cell attachment, potential inhibitors could hinder the initial stages of infection.
Furthermore, the research highlights the need for ongoing monitoring and analysis of viral variants. Understanding how new variants evolve to exploit electrostatic interactions can aid in predicting their potential for increased transmissibility and severity. This knowledge can inform public health measures, vaccine development, and therapeutic interventions.
The study findings were published in the peer reviewed journal: Frontiers in Microbiology.
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