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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

12 Jul

A SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody with extensive Spike binding coverage and modified for optimal therapeutic outcomes (Nature Communications)

COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 constitutes a global public health crisis with enormous economic consequences. Monoclonal antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 can provide an important treatment option to fight COVID-19, especially for the most vulnerable populations. In this work, potent antibodies binding to SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein were identified from COVID-19 convalescent patients. Among them, P4A1 interacts directly with and covers majority of the Receptor Binding Motif of the Spike Receptor-Binding Domain, shown by high-resolution complex structure analysis. We further demonstrate the binding and neutralizing activities of P4A1 against wild type and mutant Spike proteins or pseudoviruses. P4A1 was subsequently engineered to reduce the potential risk for Antibody-Dependent Enhancement of infection and to extend its half-life. The engineered antibody exhibits an optimized pharmacokinetic and safety profile, and it results in complete viral clearance in a rhesus monkey model of COVID-19 following a single injection. These data suggest its potential against SARS-CoV-2 related diseases. Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 S protein can provide a treatment strategy for COVID-19. Here, Guo et al. provide the crystal structure of a SARS-CoV2 neutralizing antibody isolated from a convalescent patient and highlight the therapeutic efficacy in a rhesus monkey model of an engineered version with optimized pharmacokinetic and safety profile.

12 Jul

The Contribution of Biophysics and Structural Biology to Current Advances in COVID-19 (Annual reviews of Biophysics)

Critical to viral infection are the multiple interactions between viral proteins and host-cell counterparts. The first such interaction is the recognition of viral envelope proteins by surface receptors that normally fulfil other physiological roles, a hijacking mechanism perfected over the course of evolution. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the etiological agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has successfully adopted this strategy using its spike glycoprotein to dock on the membrane-bound metalloprotease angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The crystal structures of several SARS-CoV-2 proteins alone or in complex with their receptors or other ligands were recently solved at an unprecedented pace. This accomplishment is partly due to the increasing availability of data on other coronaviruses and ACE2 over the past 18 years. Likewise, other key intervening actors and mechanisms of viral infection were elucidated with the aid of biophysical approaches. An understanding of the various structurally important motifs of the interacting partners provides key mechanistic information for the development of structure-based designer drugs able to inhibit various steps of the infective cycle, including neutralizing antibodies, small organic drugs, and vaccines. This review analyzes current progress and the outlook for future structural studies.

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Reader's Corner Archive

18 May

Beam image-shift accelerated data acquisition for near-atomic resolution single-particle cryo-electron tomography (Nature Communications)

Tomographic reconstruction of cryopreserved specimens imaged in an electron microscope followed by extraction and averaging of sub-volumes has been successfully used to derive atomic models of macromolecules in their biological environment. Eliminating biochemical isolation steps required by other techniques, this method opens up the cell to in-situ structural studies. However, the need to compensate for errors in targeting introduced during mechanical navigation of the specimen significantly slows down tomographic data collection thus limiting its practical value. Here, Borgnia, M. J., Bartesaghi, A. et. al. introduce protocols for tilt-series acquisition and processing that accelerate data collection speed by up to an order of magnitude and improve map resolution compared to existing approaches. They achieve this by using beam-image shift to multiply the number of areas imaged at each stage position, by integrating geometrical constraints during imaging to achieve high precision targeting, and by performing per-tilt astigmatic CTF estimation and data-driven exposure weighting to improve final map resolution. They validated our beam image-shift electron cryo-tomography (BISECT) approach by determining the structure of a low molecular weight target (~300 kDa) at 3.6 Å resolution where density for individual side chains is clearly resolved.

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