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Highlights of Coronavirus Structural Studies

6 Apr 2022

Deep learning guided optimization of human antibody against SARS-CoV-2 variants with broad neutralization (PNAS)

The ability of viruses to mutate and evade the human immune system and neutralizing antibodies remains an obstacle to antiviral and vaccine development. Many neutralizing antibodies, including some approved for emergency use authorization (EUA), reduced or lost activity against severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) variants. Here, we introduce a geometric deep learning algorithm that efficiently enhances antibody affinity to achieve broader and more potent neutralizing activity against such variants. We demonstrate the utility of our approach on a human antibody P36-5D2, which is effective against SARS-CoV-2 Alpha, Beta, and Gamma but not Delta. We show that our geometric neural network model optimizes this antibody's complementaritydetermining region (CDR) sequences to improve its binding affinity against multiple SARS-CoV-2 variants. Through iterative optimization of the CDR regions and experimental measurements, we enable expanded antibody breadth and improved potency by similar to 10to 600-fold against SARS-CoV-2 variants, including Delta. We have also demonstrated that our approach can identify CDR changes that alleviate the impact of two Omicron mutations on the epitope. These results highlight the power of our deep learning approach in antibody optimization and its potential application to engineering other protein molecules. Our optimized antibodies can potentially be developed into antibody drug candidates for current and emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants.

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Reader's Corner Archive

6 Apr 2022

Structure determination of high-energy states in a dynamic protein ensemble (Nature)

Macromolecular function frequently requires that proteins change conformation into high-energy states. However, methods for solving the structures of these functionally essential, lowly populated states are lacking. Here Dorothee Kern develop a method for high-resolution structure determination of minorly populated states by coupling NMR spectroscopy-derived pseudocontact shifts (PCSs) with Carr–Purcell–Meiboom–Gill (CPMG) relaxation dispersion (PCS–CPMG). Their approach additionally defines the corresponding kinetics and thermodynamics of high-energy excursions, thereby characterizing the entire free-energy landscape. Using a large set of simulated data for adenylate kinase (Adk), calmodulin and Src kinase, they find that high-energy PCSs accurately determine high-energy structures (with a root mean squared deviation of less than 3.5 angström). Applying their methodology to Adk during catalysis, they find that the high-energy excursion involves surprisingly small openings of the AMP and ATP lids. This previously unresolved high-energy structure solves a longstanding controversy about conformational interconversions that are rate-limiting for catalysis. Primed for either substrate binding or product release, the high-energy structure of Adk suggests a two-step mechanism combining conformational selection to this state, followed by an induced-fit step into a fully closed state for catalysis of the phosphoryl-transfer reaction. Unlike other methods for resolving high-energy states, such as cryo-electron microscopy and X-ray crystallography, their solution PCS–CPMG approach excels in cases involving domain rearrangements of smaller systems (less than 60 kDa) and populations as low as 0.5%, and enables the simultaneous determination of protein structure, kinetics and thermodynamics while proteins perform their function.

6 Jan 2022

De novo protein design by deep network hallucination (Nature)

There has been considerable recent progress in protein structure prediction using deep neural networks to predict inter-residue distances from amino acid sequences. Here we investigate whether the information captured by such networks is sufficiently rich to generate new folded proteins with sequences unrelated to those of the naturally occurring proteins used in training the models. We generate random amino acid sequences, and input them into the trRosetta structure prediction network to predict starting residue–residue distance maps, which, as expected, are quite featureless. We then carry out Monte Carlo sampling in amino acid sequence space, optimizing the contrast (Kullback–Leibler divergence) between the inter-residue distance distributions predicted by the network and background distributions averaged over all proteins. Optimization from different random starting points resulted in novel proteins spanning a wide range of sequences and predicted structures. We obtained synthetic genes encoding 129 of the network-‘hallucinated’ sequences, and expressed and purified the proteins in Escherichia coli; 27 of the proteins yielded monodisperse species with circular dichroism spectra consistent with the hallucinated structures. We determined the three-dimensional structures of three of the hallucinated proteins, two by X-ray crystallography and one by NMR, and these closely matched the hallucinated models. Thus, deep networks trained to predict native protein structures from their sequences can be inverted to design new proteins, and such networks and methods should contribute alongside traditional physics-based models to the de novo design of proteins with new functions.

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