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Adv Funct Mater ; 32(49)2022 Dec 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-20244316


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) surface spike glycoprotein - a major antibody target - is critical for virus entry via engagement of human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. Despite successes with existing vaccines and therapies that primarily target the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein, the susceptibility of RBD to mutations provides escape routes for the SARS-CoV-2 from neutralizing antibodies. On the other hand, structural conservation in the spike protein can be targeted to reduce escape mutations and achieve broad protection. Here, we designed candidate stable immunogens that mimic surface features of selected conserved regions of spike protein through 'epitope grafting,' in which we present the target epitope topology on diverse heterologous scaffolds that can structurally accommodate the spike epitopes. Structural characterization of the epitope-scaffolds showed stark agreement with our computational models and target epitopes. The sera from mice immunized with engineered designs display epitope-scaffolds and spike binding activity. We also demonstrated the utility of the designed epitope-scaffolds in diagnostic applications. Taken all together, our study provides important methodology for targeting the conserved, non-RBD structural motifs of spike protein for SARS-CoV-2 epitope vaccine design and demonstrates the potential utility of 'epitope grafting' in rational vaccine design.

Int J Biol Macromol ; 2022 Nov 24.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2241050


One of the main obstacles in prevention and treatment of COVID-19 is the rapid evolution of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein. Given that Spike is the main target of common treatments of COVID-19, mutations occurring at this virulent factor can affect the effectiveness of treatments. The B.1.617.2 lineage of SARS-CoV-2, being characterized by many Spike mutations inside and outside of its receptor-binding domain (RBD), shows high infectivity and relative resistance to existing cures. Here, utilizing a wide range of computational biology approaches, such as immunoinformatics, molecular dynamics (MD), analysis of intrinsically disordered regions (IDRs), protein-protein interaction analyses, residue scanning, and free energy calculations, we examine the structural and biological attributes of the B.1.617.2 Spike protein. Furthermore, the antibody design protocol of Rosetta was implemented for evaluation the stability and affinity improvement of the Bamlanivimab (LY-CoV55) antibody, which is not capable of interactions with the B.1.617.2 Spike. We observed that the detected mutations in the Spike of the B1.617.2 variant of concern can cause extensive structural changes compatible with the described variation in immunogenicity, secondary and tertiary structure, oligomerization potency, Furin cleavability, and drug targetability. Compared to the Spike of Wuhan lineage, the B.1.617.2 Spike is more stable and binds to the Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) with higher affinity.

Proteins ; 89(4): 399-408, 2021 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-970216


A novel severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has emerged as a human pathogen, causing global pandemic and resulting in over 400 000 deaths worldwide. The surface spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 mediates the process of coronavirus entry into human cells by binding angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Due to the critical role in viral-host interaction and the exposure of spike protein, it has been a focus of most vaccines' developments. However, the structural and biochemical studies of the spike protein are challenging because it is thermodynamically metastable. Here, we develop a new pipeline that automatically identifies mutants that thermodynamically stabilize the spike protein. Our pipeline integrates bioinformatics analysis of conserved residues, motion dynamics from molecular dynamics simulations, and other structural analysis to identify residues that significantly contribute to the thermodynamic stability of the spike protein. We then utilize our previously developed protein design tool, Eris, to predict thermodynamically stabilizing mutations in proteins. We validate the ability of our pipeline to identify protein stabilization mutants through known prefusion spike protein mutants. We finally utilize the pipeline to identify new prefusion spike protein stabilization mutants.

COVID-19/virology , Mutagenesis , SARS-CoV-2 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Binding Sites , Computational Biology , Humans , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , Mutation , Protein Binding , Protein Domains , Thermodynamics