- Within the last 2 decades, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronaviruses 1 and 2 (SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2) have caused two major outbreaks; yet, for reasons not fully understood, the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has been significantly more widespread than the 2003 SARS epidemic caused by SARS-CoV-1, despite striking similarities between these two viruses. The SARS-CoV-1 and SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins, both of which bind to host cell angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, have been implied to be a potential source of their differential transmissibility.
- The D614G mutation in the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 alters the fitness of the virus, leading to the dominant form observed in the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the molecular basis of the mechanism by which this mutation enhances fitness is not clear. Here we demonstrated by cryo-electron microscopy that the D614G mutation resulted in increased propensity of multiple receptor-binding domains (RBDs) in an upward conformation poised for host receptor binding. Multiple substates within the one RBD-up or two RBD-up conformational space were determined.
- The seasonal nature of outbreaks of respiratory viral infections with increased transmission during low temperatures has been well established. Accordingly, temperature has been suggested to play a role on the viability and transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the Spike glycoprotein is known to bind to its host receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to initiate viral fusion. Using biochemical, biophysical, and functional assays to dissect the effect of temperature on the receptor–Spike interaction, we observed a significant and stepwise increase in RBD-ACE2 affinity at low temperatures, resulting in slower dissociation kinetics.