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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

9 Sep 2022

A public antibody class recognizes an S2 epitope exposed on open conformations of SARS-CoV-2 spike (Nature Communications)

Delineating the origins and properties of antibodies elicited by SARS-CoV-2 infection and vaccination is critical for understanding their benefits and potential shortcomings. Therefore, we investigate the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S)-reactive B cell repertoire in unexposed individuals by flow cytometry and single-cell sequencing. We show that similar to 82% of SARS-CoV-2 S-reactive B cells harbor a naive phenotype, which represents an unusually high fraction of total human naive B cells (similar to 0.1%). Approximately 10% of these naive S-reactive B cells share an IGHV1-69/IGKV3-11 B cell receptor pairing, an enrichment of 18-fold compared to the complete naive repertoire. Following SARS-CoV-2 infection, we report an average 37-fold enrichment of IGHV1-69/IGKV3-11 B cell receptor pairing in the S-reactive memory B cells compared to the unselected memory repertoire. This class of B cells targets a previously undefined non-neutralizing epitope on the S2 subunit that becomes exposed on S proteins used in approved vaccines when they transition away from the native pre-fusion state because of instability. These findings can help guide the improvement of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines.

To fully understand the potential shortcomings of SARS-CoV-2 vaccination, it is necessary to delineate the properties of the antibodies elicited, during immunization, and also infection. Through investigation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike-reactive B cell repertoire, authors identify following infection, a subset of B cells enriched and almost exclusively target a non-neutralizing S2 epitope present in aberrant forms.

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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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