The Mac Planck Institute identifies a new point of attack on the coronavirus
The German research team used a new method of analysis to detect a previously unknown point of attack in the spike protein SONS-CoV-2 coronavirus. The team showed that certain sugar molecules protect the protein class and protect a large part of the immune defense cells. However, the working group also identified less well-protected areas of spike protein that could be targeted.
Researchers at the Mak Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main have been able to use the dynamic SARS-CoV-2 model to understand the protective function of the virus, which protects class proteins from immune defense cells. At the same time, the investigation also revealed weak points in the protective shield of the virus. The results were recently presented in the renowned specialist magazine “Plos”.
Spike protein as a key feature of SARS-CoV-2
As the working group emphasizes, the spike protein is a key characteristic of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, because with the help of protein, it can stick to cell surfaces and then infect them. Extensive research has enabled the creation of detailed models of coronavirus and its spike protein. Researchers from the Mac Planck Institute have now further improved these models.
Earlier models of spike proteins were static and could not represent movement. For the first time, the new model is able to simulate the movement of the spike protein itself and the surrounding glycan chains.
Like a windshield wiper
Simulations show that the sugar molecules on the spike protein act like a dynamic protective shield that helps the virus escape the human immune system. Researchers compare the protective function to a wiper that cleans a car’s windshield. Glycans move back and forth on the protein class, preventing neutralizing antibodies from adhering to the protein block.
Not all places are equally protected
However, research has also shown that not all sites are equally well protected. Similar to a windshield wiper, sugar molecules do not cover all areas of the spike protein. Some areas are less protected by a glycan shield than others, the researchers emphasize. Some areas identified have already been identified as weak points in previous studies, while others are unknown to date.
New starting points against SARS-CoV-2 mutations
“We are in the phase of a pandemic that is constantly changing with the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, with mutations particularly concentrated in the protein class,” explains Mateusz Sikora from the research team. The new approach could support the design of vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, especially if already established methods fail.
Finding vulnerabilities to viral proteins
At the same time, the developed method also represents a new way of finding potential weak points on other viral proteins, summarizes the research team from the Mac Planck Institute. Only recently, a U.S. research team discovered another weak point in the coronavirus spike protein: You can learn more about this in the article: “COVID-19: A New Weak Point in the Virus Identified.” (vb)
Author and source information
This text is in accordance with the requirements of the specialist medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical professionals.
Diploma Editor (FH) Volker Blasek
- Mak Planck: Dynamic Sars-CoV-2 class protein model shows targets for new vaccines (published: 01.04.2021), mpg.de
- Mateusz Sikora, Soren von Bulov, Florian EC Blanc, et al .: Computer epitope map of SARS-CoV-2 class proteins; in: Plos Computational Biologi, 2021, journals.plos.org
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended for use in self-diagnosis or self-medication. It cannot replace a visit to the doctor.