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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

6 Oct 2022

Spatial- and Valence-Matched Neutralizing DNA Nanostructure Blocks Wild-Type SARS-CoV-2 and Omicron Variant Infection (ACS Nano)

Natural ligand–receptor interactions that play pivotal roles in biological events are ideal models for design and assembly of artificial recognition molecules. Herein, aiming at the structural characteristics of the spike trimer and infection mechanism of SARS-CoV-2, we have designed a DNA framework-guided spatial-patterned neutralizing aptamer trimer for SARS-CoV-2 neutralization. The ∼5.8 nm tetrahedral DNA framework affords precise spatial organization and matched valence as four neutralizing aptamers (MATCH-4), which matches with nanometer precision the topmost surface of SARS-CoV-2 spike trimer, enhancing the interaction between MATCH-4 and spike trimer. Moreover, the DNA framework provides a dimensionally complementary nanoscale barrier to prevent the spike trimer–ACE2 interaction and the conformational transition, thereby inhibiting SARS-CoV-2–host cell fusion and infection. As a result, the spatial- and valence-matched MATCH-4 ensures improved binding affinity and neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 and its varied mutant strains, particularly the current Omicron variant, that are evasive of the majority of existing neutralizing antibodies. In addition, because neutralizing aptamers specific to other targets can be evolved and assembled, the present design has the potential to inhibit other wide-range and emerging pathogens.

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Reader's Corner Archive

6 Dec 2022

Recognition of cyclic dinucleotides folates by human SLC19A1 (Nature)

Cyclic dinucleotides (CDNs) are ubiquitous signalling molecules in all domains of life. Mammalian cells produce one CDN, 2′3′-cGAMP, through cyclic GMP–AMP synthase after detecting cytosolic DNA signals. 2′3′-cGAMP, as well as bacterial and synthetic CDN analogues, can act as second messengers to activate stimulator of interferon genes (STING) and elicit broad downstream responses. Extracellular CDNs must traverse the cell membrane to activate STING, a process that is dependent on the solute carrier SLC19A. Moreover, SLC19A1 represents the major transporter for folate nutrients and antifolate therapeutics, thereby placing SLC19A1 as a key factor in multiple physiological and pathological processes. How SLC19A1 recognizes and transports CDNs, folate and antifolate is unclear. Here we report cryo-electron microscopy structures of human SLC19A1 (hSLC19A1) in a substrate-free state and in complexes with multiple CDNs from different sources, a predominant natural folate and a new-generation antifolate drug. The structural and mutagenesis results demonstrate that hSLC19A1 uses unique yet divergent mechanisms to recognize CDN- and folate-type substrates. Two CDN molecules bind within the hSLC19A1 cavity as a compact dual-molecule unit, whereas folate and antifolate bind as a monomer and occupy a distinct pocket of the cavity. Moreover, the structures enable accurate mapping and potential mechanistic interpretation of hSLC19A1 with loss-of-activity and disease-related mutations. Our research provides a framework for understanding the mechanism of SLC19-family transporters and is a foundation for the development of potential therapeutics.

15 Nov 2022

Single-cell genomic variation induced by mutational processes in cancer (Nature)

How cell-to-cell copy number alterations that underpin genomic instability in human cancers drive genomic and phenotypic variation, and consequently the evolution of cancer, remains understudied. Here, by applying scaled single-cell whole-genome sequencing to wild-type, TP53-deficient and TP53-deficient;BRCA1-deficient or TP53-deficient;BRCA2-deficient mammary epithelial cells (13,818 genomes), and to primary triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) and high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSC) cells (22,057 genomes), we identify three distinct ‘foreground’ mutational patterns that are defined by cell-to-cell structural variation. Cell- and clone-specific high-level amplifications, parallel haplotype-specific copy number alterations and copy number segment length variation (serrate structural variations) had measurable phenotypic and evolutionary consequences. In TNBC and HGSC, clone-specific high-level amplifications in known oncogenes were highly prevalent in tumours bearing fold-back inversions, relative to tumours with homologous recombination deficiency, and were associated with increased clone-to-clone phenotypic variation. Parallel haplotype-specific alterations were also commonly observed, leading to phylogenetic evolutionary diversity and clone-specific mono-allelic expression. Serrate variants were increased in tumours with fold-back inversions and were highly correlated with increased genomic diversity of cellular populations. Together, our findings show that cell-to-cell structural variation contributes to the origins of phenotypic and evolutionary diversity in TNBC and HGSC, and provide insight into the genomic and mutational states of individual cancer cells.

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