Biotech Updates

Scientists Map Key Part of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein

September 6, 2023

The fusion peptide on the SARS-CoV-2 spike (pictured here) plays a key role in virus/cell attachment. Illustration from the University of Missouri website.

A new study led by molecular biologist Steven Van Doren, a scientist at the University of Missouri College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, has uncovered the unexpected actions of a key player in how the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus infects humans—a discovery that could guide further vaccine development.

Van Doren and his team studied the fusion peptide, an important feature of the coronavirus spike protein that serves to bind the virus with the human cell, an essential step in the course of infection. The research team found that the fusion peptide plays a more invasive role in fusing the virus to the cell than previously thought, a significant discovery in understanding how infection occurs.

According to Van Doren, the fusion peptide is the most preserved part of the whole viral spike. “Throughout the evolution of this virus, the fusion peptide endured despite all the mutations and variants that we kept on hearing about in the news," he added. Van Doren also said that the fusion peptide never changed much and stayed as a constant feature on the virus spike because it is critically important for infection for it to be modified.

Aside from guiding future vaccine development, this discovery has potential applications in creating a novel strategy to penetrate cells.

For more details, read the news release in Show Me Mizzou.

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