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      Higher infectivity of the SARS‐CoV‐2 new variants is associated with K417N/T, E484K, and N501Y mutants: An insight from structural data


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          The evolution of the SARS‐CoV‐2 new variants reported to be 70% more contagious than the earlier one is now spreading fast worldwide. There is an instant need to discover how the new variants interact with the host receptor (ACE2). Among the reported mutations in the Spike glycoprotein of the new variants, three are specific to the receptor‐binding domain (RBD) and required insightful scrutiny for new therapeutic options. These structural evolutions in the RBD domain may impart a critical role to the unique pathogenicity of the SARS‐CoV‐2 new variants. Herein, using structural and biophysical approaches, we explored that the specific mutations in the UK (N501Y), South African (K417N‐E484K‐N501Y), Brazilian (K417T‐E484K‐N501Y), and hypothetical (N501Y‐E484K) variants alter the binding affinity, create new inter‐protein contacts and changes the internal structural dynamics thereby increases the binding and eventually the infectivity. Our investigation highlighted that the South African (K417N‐E484K‐N501Y), Brazilian (K417T‐E484K‐N501Y) variants are more lethal than the UK variant (N501Y). The behavior of the wild type and N501Y is comparable. Free energy calculations further confirmed that increased binding of the spike RBD to the ACE2 is mainly due to the electrostatic contribution. Further, we find that the unusual virulence of this virus is potentially the consequence of Darwinian selection‐driven epistasis in protein evolution. The triple mutants (South African and Brazilian) may pose a serious threat to the efficacy of the already developed vaccine. Our analysis would help to understand the binding and structural dynamics of the new mutations in the RBD domain of the Spike protein and demand further investigation in in vitro and in vivo models to design potential therapeutics against the new variants.


          This study precisely explored the mechanism of the interaction of the spike RBD with the host ACE2 and revealed the differences in the binding of the reference and new variants. The systematic investigation revealed that the South African and Brazilian variants are more lethal than the others due to inter‐protein contacts specifically the electrostatic while the N501Y is comparable with the wild type. We hypothesized that the residue at 501Y is continuously subjected to positive selection pressure. We further demonstrated the dynamic behavior is also changed with the protein evolution. Conclusively, this study provides strong basis for structure and rationale‐based drug designing against the new variant by exploring the noticeable differences.

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          Clinical features of patients infected with 2019 novel coronavirus in Wuhan, China

          Summary Background A recent cluster of pneumonia cases in Wuhan, China, was caused by a novel betacoronavirus, the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV). We report the epidemiological, clinical, laboratory, and radiological characteristics and treatment and clinical outcomes of these patients. Methods All patients with suspected 2019-nCoV were admitted to a designated hospital in Wuhan. We prospectively collected and analysed data on patients with laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection by real-time RT-PCR and next-generation sequencing. Data were obtained with standardised data collection forms shared by WHO and the International Severe Acute Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium from electronic medical records. Researchers also directly communicated with patients or their families to ascertain epidemiological and symptom data. Outcomes were also compared between patients who had been admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) and those who had not. Findings By Jan 2, 2020, 41 admitted hospital patients had been identified as having laboratory-confirmed 2019-nCoV infection. Most of the infected patients were men (30 [73%] of 41); less than half had underlying diseases (13 [32%]), including diabetes (eight [20%]), hypertension (six [15%]), and cardiovascular disease (six [15%]). Median age was 49·0 years (IQR 41·0–58·0). 27 (66%) of 41 patients had been exposed to Huanan seafood market. One family cluster was found. Common symptoms at onset of illness were fever (40 [98%] of 41 patients), cough (31 [76%]), and myalgia or fatigue (18 [44%]); less common symptoms were sputum production (11 [28%] of 39), headache (three [8%] of 38), haemoptysis (two [5%] of 39), and diarrhoea (one [3%] of 38). Dyspnoea developed in 22 (55%) of 40 patients (median time from illness onset to dyspnoea 8·0 days [IQR 5·0–13·0]). 26 (63%) of 41 patients had lymphopenia. All 41 patients had pneumonia with abnormal findings on chest CT. Complications included acute respiratory distress syndrome (12 [29%]), RNAaemia (six [15%]), acute cardiac injury (five [12%]) and secondary infection (four [10%]). 13 (32%) patients were admitted to an ICU and six (15%) died. Compared with non-ICU patients, ICU patients had higher plasma levels of IL2, IL7, IL10, GSCF, IP10, MCP1, MIP1A, and TNFα. Interpretation The 2019-nCoV infection caused clusters of severe respiratory illness similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus and was associated with ICU admission and high mortality. Major gaps in our knowledge of the origin, epidemiology, duration of human transmission, and clinical spectrum of disease need fulfilment by future studies. Funding Ministry of Science and Technology, Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences, National Natural Science Foundation of China, and Beijing Municipal Science and Technology Commission.
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            Structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain bound to the ACE2 receptor

            A new and highly pathogenic coronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2, SARS-CoV-2) caused an outbreak in Wuhan city, Hubei province, China, starting from December 2019 that quickly spread nationwide and to other countries around the world1-3. Here, to better understand the initial step of infection at an atomic level, we determined the crystal structure of the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 bound to the cell receptor ACE2. The overall ACE2-binding mode of the SARS-CoV-2 RBD is nearly identical to that of the SARS-CoV RBD, which also uses ACE2 as the cell receptor4. Structural analysis identified residues in the SARS-CoV-2 RBD that are essential for ACE2 binding, the majority of which either are highly conserved or share similar side chain properties with those in the SARS-CoV RBD. Such similarity in structure and sequence strongly indicate convergent evolution between the SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV RBDs for improved binding to ACE2, although SARS-CoV-2 does not cluster within SARS and SARS-related coronaviruses1-3,5. The epitopes of two SARS-CoV antibodies that target the RBD are also analysed for binding to the SARS-CoV-2 RBD, providing insights into the future identification of cross-reactive antibodies.
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              Is Open Access

              Structural basis for the recognition of SARS-CoV-2 by full-length human ACE2

              How SARS-CoV-2 binds to human cells Scientists are racing to learn the secrets of severe acute respiratory syndrome–coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the cause of the pandemic disease COVID-19. The first step in viral entry is the binding of the viral trimeric spike protein to the human receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Yan et al. present the structure of human ACE2 in complex with a membrane protein that it chaperones, B0AT1. In the context of this complex, ACE2 is a dimer. A further structure shows how the receptor binding domain of SARS-CoV-2 interacts with ACE2 and suggests that it is possible that two trimeric spike proteins bind to an ACE2 dimer. The structures provide a basis for the development of therapeutics targeting this crucial interaction. Science, this issue p. 1444

                Author and article information

                J Cell Physiol
                J Cell Physiol
                Journal of Cellular Physiology
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                23 March 2021
                [ 1 ] Department of Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai P.R. China
                [ 2 ] Department of Microbiology Quaid‐i‐Azam University Islamabad Pakistan
                [ 3 ] Center for Biotechnology and Microbiology University of Swat Swat Khyber‐Pakhtunkhwa Pakistan
                [ 4 ] National Center for Bioinformatics Quaid‐i‐Azam University Islamabad Pakistan
                [ 5 ] Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Dasman Diabetes Institute Kuwait
                [ 6 ] State Key Laboratory of Microbial Metabolism, Shanghai‐Islamabad‐Belgrade Joint Innovation Center on Antibacterial Resistances, Joint Laboratory of International Laboratory of Metabolic and Developmental Sciences, Ministry of Education and School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology Shanghai Jiao Tong University Shanghai P.R. China
                [ 7 ] Peng Cheng Laboratory Vanke Cloud City Phase I Building 8, Xili Street, Nashan District Guangdong Shenzhen P.R. China
                Author notes
                [*] [* ] Correspondence Dong‐Qing Wei, Department of Bioinformatics and Biological Statistics, School of Life Sciences and Biotechnology, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai, 200240, P.R. China.

                Email: dqwei@ 123456sjtu.edu.cn

                © 2021 Wiley Periodicals LLC

                This article is being made freely available through PubMed Central as part of the COVID-19 public health emergency response. It can be used for unrestricted research re-use and analysis in any form or by any means with acknowledgement of the original source, for the duration of the public health emergency.

                Page count
                Figures: 8, Tables: 1, Pages: 13, Words: 8030
                Funded by: National Natural Science Foundation of China , open-funder-registry 10.13039/501100001809;
                Award ID: 2016YFA0501703
                Research Article
                Research Articles
                Custom metadata
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_JATSPMC version:6.0.4 mode:remove_FC converted:02.07.2021

                Anatomy & Physiology
                kd (dissociation constant),md simulation,new variants,protein–protein docking,sars‐cov‐2


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