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    Role of N343 glycosylation on the SARS-CoV-2 S RBD structure and co-receptor binding across variants of concern

    Nguyen, Linh and Ives, Callum M and Fogarty, Carl A. and Harbison, Aoife M and Durocher, Yves and Klassen, John and Fadda, Elisa (2024) Role of N343 glycosylation on the SARS-CoV-2 S RBD structure and co-receptor binding across variants of concern. eLife, 13. ISSN 2050-084X

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    Glycosylation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein represents a key target for viral evolution because it affects both viral evasion and fitness. Successful variations in the glycan shield are difficult to achieve though, as protein glycosylation is also critical to folding and structural stability. Within this framework, the identification of glycosylation sites that are structurally dispensable can provide insight into the evolutionary mechanisms of the shield and inform immune surveillance. In this work, we show through over 45 μs of cumulative sampling from conventional and enhanced molecular dynamics (MD) simulations, how the structure of the immunodominant S receptor binding domain (RBD) is regulated by N-glycosylation at N343 and how this glycan’s structural role changes from WHu-1, alpha (B.1.1.7), and beta (B.1.351), to the delta (B.1.617.2), and omicron (BA.1 and BA.2.86) variants. More specifically, we find that the amphipathic nature of the N-glycan is instrumental to preserve the structural integrity of the RBD hydrophobic core and that loss of glycosylation at N343 triggers a specific and consistent conformational change. We show how this change allosterically regulates the conformation of the receptor binding motif (RBM) in the WHu-1, alpha, and beta RBDs, but not in the delta and omicron variants, due to mutations that reinforce the RBD architecture. In support of these findings, we show that the binding of the RBD to monosialylated ganglioside co-receptors is highly dependent on N343 glycosylation in the WHu-1, but not in the delta RBD, and that affinity changes significantly across VoCs. Ultimately, the molecular and functional insight we provide in this work reinforces our understanding of the role of glycosylation in protein structure and function and it also allows us to identify the structural constraints within which the glycosylation site at N343 can become a hotspot for mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 S glycan shield.

    Item Type: Article
    Keywords: N343 glycosylation; SARS-CoV-2 S RBD structure; co-receptor binding; variants of concern;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Science and Engineering > Chemistry
    Item ID: 18662
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: IR Editor
    Date Deposited: 18 Jun 2024 11:11
    Journal or Publication Title: eLife
    Publisher: eLife
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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