A recently published study in Journal of Cellular Physiology by Dr. Muhammad Suleman and Dr. Syed Shujait Ali Center for Biotechnology and Microbiology University of Swat in collaboration with Dr. Abbas Khan, Mr. Taimoor Khan and Prof. Dr. Dong-Qing Wei from Shanghai Jiao Tong University reported the molecular mechanism behind the higher infectivity and transmission of the new variant of the SARS-CoV-2 reported in UK, South Africa and Brazil. The study reported that mutations in the Spike glycoprotein of the new variants, three are specific to the receptor‐binding domain (RBD) may impart a critical role to the unique pathogenicity of the SARS‐CoV‐2 new variants. Herein, using structural and biophysical approaches, It has been explored that the specific mutations in the UK (N501Y), South African (K417N‐E484K‐N501Y), Brazilian (K417T‐E484K‐N501Y), and hypothetical (N501Y‐E484K) variants alter the binding affinity, create new inter‐protein contacts and changes the internal structural dynamics thereby increases the binding and eventually the infectivity. The investigation highlighted that the South African (K417N‐E484K‐N501Y), Brazilian (K417T‐E484K‐N501Y) variants are more lethal than the UK variant (N501Y). The triple mutants (South African and Brazilian) may pose a serious threat to the efficacy of the already developed vaccine. Furthermore, the study warned that coronavirus might have evolved enough to evade the COVID-19 vaccines that have been approved so far. The investigators of this study added that computational biology and artificial intelligence technology offers a new hope that a cure to COVID-19 might be developed faster than ever before through mechanism-based drug discovery.
Research paper: Higher infectivity of the SARS‐CoV‐2 new variants is associated with K417N/T, E484K, and N501Y mutants: An insight from structural data