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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

9 Sep

Omicron SARS-CoV-2 mutations stabilize spike up-RBD conformation and lead to a non-RBM-binding monoclonal antibody escape (Nature Communications)

Omicron SARS-CoV-2 is rapidly spreading worldwide. To delineate the impact of emerging mutations on spike's properties, we performed systematic structural analyses on apo Omicron spike and its complexes with human ACE2 or S309 neutralizing antibody (NAb) by cryo-EM. The Omicron spike preferentially adopts the one-RBD-up conformation both before and after ACE2 binding, which is in sharp contrast to the orchestrated conformational changes to create more up-RBDs upon ACE2 binding as observed in the prototype and other four variants of concern (VOCs). Furthermore, we found that S371L, S373P and S375F substitutions enhance the stability of the one-RBD-up conformation to prevent exposing more up-RBDs triggered by ACE2 binding. The increased stability of the one-RBD-up conformation restricts the accessibility of S304 NAb, which targets a cryptic epitope in the closed conformation, thus facilitating the immune evasion by Omicron. These results expand our understanding of Omicron spike's conformation, receptor binding and antibody evasion mechanism.

The SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant spreads rapidly. Here the authors show that Omicron S preferentially adopts the one-RBD-up conformation, which leads to a non-RBM-binding monoclonal antibody escape. Mutagenesis reveals that S371L, S373P and S375F substitutions enhance the conformational stability.

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Reader's Corner Archive

6 Apr

Imaging active site chemistry and protonation states: NMR crystallography of the tryptophan synthase alpha-aminoacrylate intermediate (PNAS)

NMR-assisted crystallography—the integrated application of solid-state NMR, X-ray crystallography, and first-principles computational chemistry—holds significant promise for mechanistic enzymology: by providing atomic-resolution characterization of stable intermediates in enzyme active sites, including hydrogen atom locations and tautomeric equilibria, NMR crystallography offers insight into both structure and chemical dynamics. Here, this integrated approach is used to characterize the tryptophan synthase α-aminoacrylate intermediate, a defining species for pyridoxal-5′-phosphate–dependent enzymes that catalyze β-elimination and replacement reactions. For this intermediate, NMR-assisted crystallography is able to identify the protonation states of the ionizable sites on the cofactor, substrate, and catalytic side chains as well as the location and orientation of crystallographic waters within the active site. Most notable is the water molecule immediately adjacent to the substrate β-carbon, which serves as a hydrogen bond donor to the ε-amino group of the acid–base catalytic residue βLys87. From this analysis, a detailed three-dimensional picture of structure and reactivity emerges, highlighting the fate of the L-serine hydroxyl leaving group and the reaction pathway back to the preceding transition state. Reaction of the α-aminoacrylate intermediate with benzimidazole, an isostere of the natural substrate indole, shows benzimidazole bound in the active site and poised for, but unable to initiate, the subsequent bond formation step. When modeled into the benzimidazole position, indole is positioned with C3 in contact with the α-aminoacrylate Cβ and aligned for nucleophilic attack. Here, the chemically detailed, three-dimensional structure from NMR-assisted crystallography is key to understanding why benzimidazole does not react, while indole does.

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