Coronavirus Mutant Variant: What Is Spike Protein And Why Is It So Important?

The new variant shows some special changes in the spike protein compared to other closely related variants.

Coronavirus Mutant Variant: What Is Spike Protein And Why Is It So Important?

In the acute phase of the immune response, the researchers observed higher antibody levels in patients with more severe disease. Credit: fotograzia / Getty Images

The emergence of a new variant of Coronavirus has sparked renewed interest in the part of the virus known as the spike protein. The new variant has some peculiar changes in the spike protein compared to other closely related variants – and this is one of the reasons why it is more worrying than other, harmless changes in the virus that we have seen before. The new mutations can change the biochemistry of the tip and affect the transferability of the virus.

The spike protein is also the basis of the current COVID-19 Vaccines designed to trigger an immune response against it. But what exactly is Spike Protein and why is it so important?

Cell invaders

In the parasite world, many bacterial or fungal pathogens can survive on their own without the need to infect a host cell. But viruses can’t. Instead, they have to invade cells in order to replicate. There they use the cell’s own biochemical machinery to build up new virus particles and spread to other cells or individuals.

Our cells have evolved to fight off such intrusions. One of the main defenses of cell life against invaders is the outer coating, which is a layer of fat that contains all of the enzymes, proteins, and DNA that make up a cell. Due to the biochemical nature of fats, the outer surface is highly negatively charged and repellent. Viruses have to cross this barrier in order to gain access to the cell.

Like cellular life Coronavirus It is itself surrounded by a fat membrane called the shell. To gain access to the inside of the cell, enveloped viruses use proteins (or glycoproteins, as these are often covered in slippery sugar molecules) to fuse their own membrane with that of the cells and take over the cell.

The spike protein of Coronavirus It is one such viral glycoprotein. Ebola viruses have one, influenza virus two, and herpes simplex virus five.

(Read also: Mutant Coronavirus Strain found in UK: is it more dangerous, what does it mean for the vaccine and other FAQs answered)

The architecture of the top

The spike protein consists of a linear chain of 1,273 amino acids that are neatly folded into a structure that is occupied by up to 23 sugar molecules. Spike proteins like to stick together and three separate spike molecules bind together to form a functional “trimeric” unit.

The peak can be broken down into various functional units known as domains which are fulfilled various biochemical functions of the proteinB. Binding to the target cell, fusing to the membrane, and allowing the spike to sit on the virus envelope.

The spike protein from SARS-CoV-2 sticks to the roughly spherical virus particle that is embedded in the shell and protrudes into space, ready to cling to unsuspecting cells. There are an estimated 26 spike trimers per virus.

One of these functional units binds to a protein on the surface of our cells called ACE2, triggering the uptake of the virus particle and ultimately membrane fusion. The tip is also involved in other processes such as assembly, structural stability, and immune evasion.

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The structure and cross-sectional view of man Coronavirus . It shows the shape of Coronavirus as well as the cross-sectional view. The picture shows the main elements including the Spike S protein, HE protein, virus envelope, and helical RNA. Photo credit: Wikipedia

Spike protein vaccine

Given the importance of the spike protein to the virus, many antiviral vaccines or drugs target viral glycoproteins.

For SARS-CoV-2, the vaccines made by Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna instruct our immune system to make our own version of the spike protein, which happens shortly after immunization. The production of the tip in our cells then starts the process of producing protective antibodies and T cells.

One of the most worrying features of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is how it moves or changes over time as the virus develops. The protein encoded in the viral genome can mutate and change its biochemical properties as the virus develops.

Most mutations are not beneficial and either prevent the spike protein from working or do not affect its function. However, some may cause changes that give the new version of the virus a selective advantage by making it more portable or more contagious.

One of the ways in which this can happen is a mutation in part of the spike protein that prevents protective antibodies from binding to it. Another way would be to make the spikes “stickier” to our cells.

For this reason, new mutations that change how the spike functions work are of particular importance. They can have an impact on controlling the spread of SARS-CoV-2. The new variants can be found in the UK and elsewhere have mutations over spike and in parts of the protein that are involved in getting into your cells.

Experiments will need to be conducted in the laboratory to determine if and how these mutations change the peak significantly and if our current control measures are still in effect.

This article is republished by The conversation under a Creative Commons license. read this original article.