Unveiling the structure of SARS-CoV-2

May 06, 2020

While the novel coronavirus has ground much of daily life to a halt, researchers around the world are working overtime to find solutions. Since January, structural biologists have been busy modeling the virus' vital proteins, which could lead to therapeutic breakthroughs. Now, these scientists' efforts are detailed in a feature article in Chemical & Engineering News, the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society.

As soon as the genomic sequence of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes the COVID-19 disease, was mapped, researchers were off to the races in synthesizing its proteins and determining their structures. Unlike the highly complex genome sequence encoded in human DNA, the new coronavirus has a much shorter sequence and stores its genetic information in a single strand of RNA, writes Senior Editor Laura Howes. The encoded proteins help the virus attach to human cells and replicate, and knowledge of their structures is necessary for developing small molecules and other therapeutics to disrupt the proteins. The first structural models were uploaded to the Protein Data Bank, an international database for 3D structural data of large biomolecules, within five weeks of the earliest reported cases of COVID-19.

When it came to discovering the protein structures of SARS-CoV-2, researchers with expertise in other coronaviruses had the advantage. Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) are both similar to the novel coronavirus, which scientists used as a basis for identifying protein sequences and shapes. Advances in technology have also greatly helped structural biologists in this effort, especially when it comes to imaging the proteins. X-ray crystallography, a key tool in structural biology, is largely automated, allowing for rapid and accurate data gathering. However, X-ray crystallography doesn't work for every protein. The relatively new cryo-electron microscopy has emerged as a standout method for capturing the proteins in SARS-CoV-2, reconstructing an array of 2D images into a clear 3D model. With much progress made in a few short months, researchers have abundant information to work with, but they caution that a market-ready treatment or vaccine will take time.
The article, "How structural biologists revealed the new coronavirus's structure so quickly," is freely available here.

The American Chemical Society (ACS) is a nonprofit organization chartered by the U.S. Congress. ACS' mission is to advance the broader chemistry enterprise and its practitioners for the benefit of Earth and its people. The Society is a global leader in providing access to chemistry-related information and research through its multiple research solutions, peer-reviewed journals, scientific conferences, eBooks and weekly news periodical Chemical & Engineering News. ACS journals are among the most cited, most trusted and most read within the scientific literature; however, ACS itself does not conduct chemical research. As a specialist in scientific information solutions (including SciFinder® and STN®), its CAS division powers global research, discovery and innovation. ACS' main offices are in Washington, D.C., and Columbus, Ohio.

To automatically receive news releases from the American Chemical Society, contact newsroom@acs.org.

Follow us: Twitter | Facebook

American Chemical Society

Related Proteins Articles from Brightsurf:

New understanding of how proteins operate
A ground-breaking discovery by Centenary Institute scientists has provided new understanding as to the nature of proteins and how they exist and operate in the human body.

Finding a handle to bag the right proteins
A method that lights up tags attached to selected proteins can help to purify the proteins from a mixed protein pool.

Designing vaccines from artificial proteins
EPFL scientists have developed a new computational approach to create artificial proteins, which showed promising results in vivo as functional vaccines.

New method to monitor Alzheimer's proteins
IBS-CINAP research team has reported a new method to identify the aggregation state of amyloid beta (Aβ) proteins in solution.

Composing new proteins with artificial intelligence
Scientists have long studied how to improve proteins or design new ones.

Hero proteins are here to save other proteins
Researchers at the University of Tokyo have discovered a new group of proteins, remarkable for their unusual shape and abilities to protect against protein clumps associated with neurodegenerative diseases in lab experiments.

Designer proteins
David Baker, Professor of Biochemistry at the University of Washington to speak at the AAAS 2020 session, 'Synthetic Biology: Digital Design of Living Systems.' Prof.

Gone fishin' -- for proteins
Casting lines into human cells to snag proteins, a team of Montreal researchers has solved a 20-year-old mystery of cell biology.

Coupled proteins
Researchers from Heidelberg University and Sendai University in Japan used new biotechnological methods to study how human cells react to and further process external signals.

Understanding the power of honey through its proteins
Honey is a culinary staple that can be found in kitchens around the world.

Read More: Proteins News and Proteins Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.