A model for pH coupling of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein open/closed equilibrium.

Briefings in Bioinformatics
Jim Warwicker


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), causative agent of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, is thought to release its RNA genome at either the cell surface or within endosomes, the balance being dependent on spike protein stability, and the complement of receptors, co-receptors and proteases. To investigate possible mediators of pH-dependence, pKa calculations have been made on a set of structures for spike protein ectodomain and fragments from SARS-CoV-2 and other coronaviruses. Dominating a heat map of the aggregated predictions, three histidine residues in S2 are consistently predicted as destabilizing in pre-fusion (all three) and post-fusion (two of the three) structures. Other predicted features include the more moderate energetics of surface salt-bridge interactions and sidechain-mainchain interactions. Two aspartic acid residues in partially buried salt-bridges (D290-R273 and R355-D398) have pKas that are calculated to be elevated and destabilizing in more open forms of the spike trimer. These aspartic acids are most stabilized in a tightly closed conformation that has been observed when linoleic acid is bound, and which also affects the interactions of D614. The D614G mutation is ...Continue Reading


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