Molecular mechanism of evolution and human infection with the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV)

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Jiahua HeYi Xiao


Since December, 2019, an outbreak of pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has hit the city of Wuhan in the Hubei Province. With the continuous development of the epidemic, it has become a national public health crisis and calls for urgent antiviral treatments or vaccines. The spike protein on the coronavirus envelope is critical for host cell infection and virus vitality. Previous studies showed that 2019-nCoV is highly homologous to human SARS-CoV and attaches host cells though the binding of the spike receptor binding domain (RBD) domain to the angiotensin-converting enzyme II (ACE2). However, the molecular mechanisms of 2019- nCoV binding to human ACE2 and evolution of 2019-nCoV remain unclear. In this study, we have extensively studied the RBD-ACE2 complex, spike protein, and free RBD systems of 2019-nCoV and SARS-CoV using protein-protein docking and molecular dynamics (MD) simulations. It was shown that the RBD-ACE2 binding free energy for 2019-nCoV is significantly lower than that for SARS-CoV, which is consistent the fact that 2019-nCoV is much more infectious than SARS-CoV. In addition, the spike protein of 2019-nCoV shows a significantly lower free energy than that of SARS-CoV, suggesting that 2019-nCoV...Continue Reading

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