As the COVID-19 pandemic rages on, researchers are working overtime to develop vaccines and therapies to thwart SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for the disease Many efforts focus on the coronavirus spike protein, which binds the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) on human cells to allow viral entry. Now, researchers reporting in ACS Central Science have uncovered an active role for glycans—sugar molecules that can decorate proteins—in this process, suggesting targets for vaccines and therapies.

Before the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can interact with ACE2 on a human cell, it changes shape to expose its receptor binding domain (RBD), the part of the protein that interacts with ACE2. Like many viral proteins, the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein has a thick coat of glycans on its surface. These glycans, which are attached at specific sites, help shield the  from the host immune system. Rommie Amaro and colleagues at University of California San Diego, Maynooth University (Ireland) and the University of Texas at Austin wondered whether certain glycans in the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein might also be active players in the process leading to infection.

Image Credit:  AAdapted from ACS Central Science 2020, DOI: 10.1021/acscentsci.0c01056

Thanks to Heinz V. Hoenen and Frank Boehm.  Follow them on twitter: @HeinzVHoenen @cellrepair777

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