Computational biophysical characterization of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein binding with the ACE2 receptor and implications for infectivity.

Computational and Structural Biotechnology Journal
R. ChowdhuryCostas D Maranas


SARS-CoV-2 is a novel highly virulent pathogen which gains entry to human cells by binding with the cell surface receptor - angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE2). We computationally contrasted the binding interactions between human ACE2 and coronavirus spike protein receptor binding domain (RBD) of the 2002 epidemic-causing SARS-CoV-1, SARS-CoV-2, and bat coronavirus RaTG13 using the Rosetta energy function. We find that the RBD of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 is highly optimized to achieve very strong binding with human ACE2 (hACE2) which is consistent with its enhanced infectivity. SARS-CoV-2 forms the most stable complex with hACE2 compared to SARS-CoV-1 (23% less stable) or RaTG13 (11% less stable). Notably, we calculate that the SARS-CoV-2 RBD lowers the binding strength of angiotensin 2 receptor type I (ATR1) which is the native binding partner of ACE2 by 44.2%. Strong binding is mediated through strong electrostatic attachments with every fourth residue on the N-terminus alpha-helix (starting from Ser19 to Asn53) as the turn of the helix makes these residues solvent accessible. By contrasting the spike protein SARS-CoV-2 Rosetta binding energy with ACE2 of different livestock and pet species we find strongest binding w...Continue Reading


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