Biomechanical Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 Spike RBD and Human ACE2 Protein-Protein Interaction.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Wenpeng CaoX Frank Zhang


The current COVID-19 pandemic has already had a devastating impact across the world. SARS-CoV-2 (the virus causing COVID-19) is known to use its surface spike (S) protein's receptor binding domain (RBD) to interact with the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor expressed on many human cell types. The RBD-ACE2 interaction is a crucial step to mediate the host cell entry of SARS-CoV-2. Recent studies indicate that the ACE2 interaction with the SARS-CoV-2 S protein has higher affinity than its binding with the structurally identical S protein of SARS-CoV-1, the virus causing the 2002-2004 SARS epidemic. However, the biophysical mechanism behind such binding affinity difference is unclear. This study utilizes a combined single-molecule force spectroscopy and steered molecular dynamics (SMD) simulation approach to quantify the specific interactions between CoV-2 or CoV-1 RBD and ACE2. Depending on the loading rates, the unbinding forces between CoV-2 RBD and ACE2 range from 70 to 110 pN, and are 30-50% higher than those of CoV-1 RBD and ACE2 under similar loading rates. SMD results indicate that CoV-2 RBD interacts with the N-linked glycan on Asn90 of ACE2. This interaction is mostly absent in the CoV-1 RBD-ACE2 complex. D...Continue Reading


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