Molecular epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2: the dominant role of arginine in mutations and infectivity

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Ridgway, Harry, Ntallis, Charalampos ORCID: 0000-0002-4189-5803, Chasapis, Christos T ORCID: 0000-0002-8728-6245, Kelaidonis, Konstantinos, Matsoukas, Minos-Timotheos ORCID: 0000-0002-4642-8163, Plotas, Panagiotis, Apostolopoulos, Vasso ORCID: 0000-0001-6788-2771, Moore, Graham, Tsiodras, Sotirios ORCID: 0000-0002-0463-4321, Paraskevis, Dimitrios ORCID: 0000-0001-6167-7152, Mavromoustakos, Thomas ORCID: 0000-0001-5309-992X and Matsoukas, John ORCID: 0000-0001-5554-2964 (2023) Molecular epidemiology of SARS-CoV-2: the dominant role of arginine in mutations and infectivity. Viruses, 15 (2). ISSN 1999-4915


Background, Aims, Methods, Results, Conclusions: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is a global challenge due to its ability to mutate into variants that spread more rapidly than the wild-type virus. The molecular biology of this virus has been extensively studied and computational methods applied are an example paradigm for novel antiviral drug therapies. The rapid evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the human population is driven, in part, by mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike (S-) protein, some of which enable tighter binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2). More stable RBD-ACE2 association is coupled with accelerated hydrolysis by proteases, such as furin, trypsin, and the Transmembrane Serine Protease 2 (TMPRSS2) that augment infection rates, while inhibition of the 3-chymotrypsin-like protease (3CLpro) can prevent the viral replication. Additionally, non-RBD and non-interfacial mutations may assist the S-protein in adopting thermodynamically favorable conformations for stronger binding. This study aimed to report variant distribution of SARS-CoV-2 across European Union (EU)/European Economic Area (EEA) countries and relate mutations with the driving forces that trigger infections. Variants’ distribution data for SARS-CoV-2 across EU/EEA countries were mined from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) based on the sequence or genotyping data that are deposited in the Global Science Initiative for providing genomic data (GISAID) and The European Surveillance System (TESSy) databases. Docking studies performed with AutoDock VINA revealed stabilizing interactions of putative antiviral drugs, e.g., selected anionic imidazole biphenyl tetrazoles, with the ACE2 receptor in the RBD-ACE2 complex. The driving forces of key mutations for Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Epsilon, Kappa, Lambda, and Omicron variants, which stabilize the RBD-ACE2 complex, were investigated by computational approaches. Arginine is the critical amino acid in the polybasic furin cleavage sites S1/S2 (681-PRRARS-686) S2′ (814-KRS-816). Critical mutations into arginine residues that were found in the delta variant (L452R, P681R) and may be responsible for the increased transmissibility and morbidity are also present in two widely spreading omicron variants, named BA.4.6 and BQ.1, where mutation R346T in the S-protein potentially contributes to neutralization escape. Arginine binders, such as Angiotensin Receptor Blockers (ARBs), could be a class of novel drugs for treating COVID-19.

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Item type Article
DOI 10.3390/v15020309
Official URL
Subjects Current > FOR (2020) Classification > 3202 Clinical sciences
Current > Division/Research > Australian Institute of Musculoskeletal Science (AIMSS)
Current > Division/Research > Institute for Sustainable Industries and Liveable Cities
Keywords molecular biology, mutations, SARS, infection rates
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