Unexpected Receptor Functional Mimicry Elucidates Activation of Coronavirus Fusion

Alexandra C WallsDavid Veesler


Recent outbreaks of severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome, along with the threat of a future coronavirus-mediated pandemic, underscore the importance of finding ways to combat these viruses. The trimeric spike transmembrane glycoprotein S mediates entry into host cells and is the major target of neutralizing antibodies. To understand the humoral immune response elicited upon natural infections with coronaviruses, we structurally characterized the SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV S glycoproteins in complex with neutralizing antibodies isolated from human survivors. Although the two antibodies studied blocked attachment to the host cell receptor, only the anti-SARS-CoV S antibody triggered fusogenic conformational changes via receptor functional mimicry. These results provide a structural framework for understanding coronavirus neutralization by human antibodies and shed light on activation of coronavirus membrane fusion, which takes place through a receptor-driven ratcheting mechanism.


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Datasets Mentioned


Methods Mentioned

size-exclusion chromatography
electron microscopy
gel filtration
biolayer interferometry

Software Mentioned

UCSF Chimera

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