Biotech Updates

Scientists Uncover New Details of SARS-CoV-2

April 5, 2023

SARS-CoV-2 envelope model. Source: Structure

A new study led by the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) brings into sharper focus the structural details of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The study reveals that an elliptical shape “breathes,” or changes shape, as it moves in the body.

Structural bioinformatics and computational biophysics were used to create a picture of what the SARS-CoV-2 particle looks like. The picture showed that the virus is more elliptical than spherical and can change its shape. Dmitry Korkin, lead researcher on the project said the work also led to a better understanding of the M proteins in particular, which are underappreciated and overlooked components of the virus's envelope.

The M proteins play a role in the particle's shape-shifting by keeping the structure flexible while providing a triangular mesh-like structure on the interior that makes it remarkably resilient, Korkin said. In contrast, on the exterior, the proteins assemble into mysterious filament-like structures that have puzzled scientists and will require further study.

Korkin said the structural model expands what was already known about the envelope architecture of the SARS-COV-2 virus and previous SARS- and MERS-related outbreaks. The new findings, three years in the making, were built upon Korkin's work in the early days of the pandemic to provide the first 3D roadmap of the virus, based on genetic sequence information from the first isolated strain in China.

For more details, read the article in WPI Today or download the paper in the journal Structure.

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