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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

9 Sep 2022

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

19 Apr

Structures and mechanisms of tRNA methylation by METTL1–WDR4 (Nature)

Specific, regulated modification of RNAs is important for proper gene expression(1,2). tRNAs are rich with various chemical modifications that affect their stability and function(3,4). 7-Methylguanosine (m(7)G) at tRNA position 46 is a conserved modification that modulates steady-state tRNA levels to affect cell growth(5,6). The METTL1-WDR4 complex generates m(7)G46 in humans, and dysregulation of METTL1-WDR4 has been linked to brain malformation and multiple cancers(7-22). Here we show how METTL1 and WDR4 cooperate to recognize RNA substrates and catalyse methylation. A crystal structure of METTL1-WDR4 and cryo-electron microscopy structures of METTL1-WDR4-tRNA show that the composite protein surface recognizes the tRNA elbow through shape complementarity. The cryo-electron microscopy structures of METTL1-WDR4-tRNA with S-adenosylmethionine or S-adenosylhomocysteine along with METTL1 crystal structures provide additional insights into the catalytic mechanism by revealing the active site in multiple states. The METTL1 N terminus couples cofactor binding with conformational changes in the tRNA, the catalytic loop and the WDR4 C terminus, acting as the switch to activate m(7)G methylation. Thus, our structural models explain how post-translational modifications of the METTL1 N terminus can regulate methylation. Together, our work elucidates the core and regulatory mechanisms underlying m(7)G modification by METTL1, providing the framework to understand its contribution to biology and disease.

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