News attention





Scientific Research News | Research Progress of novel coronavirus Pneumonia (COVID-19) (XLVI)

■ On March 3, the top international academic journal Nature published a research paper entitled "Structure of the SARS-CoV-30 spike receptor-binding domain bound to the ACE2 receptor" online in the form of Accelerated Article Preview. This paper reports the first important research results of the joint research results of the research group of Wang Xinquan of Tsinghua University and Zhang Linqi of Tsinghua University School of Medicine.

This study analyzed the high-resolution crystal structure of the receptor-binding domain of the new coronavirus spike protein and the human receptor protein ACE2 complex 2.45 angstroms, accurately located the interaction site between the new coronavirus RBD and the receptor ACE2, and revealed the structural basis of receptor ACE2-specific mediation of new coronavirus cell infection, laying a solid foundation for the development of therapeutic antibody drugs and the design of vaccines.

High-resolution structure of the new coronavirus spike protein RBD and receptor ACE2 complex

The key step of new coronavirus infection lies in the specific binding of the spike protein on the surface of the virus to the ACE2 receptor protein on the surface of human cells. The research team used the insect cell system to express and purify the new coronavirus spike protein RBD and human ACE2 receptor, successfully grew the crystal of the complex, collected diffraction data with a resolution of 17.1 angstroms on the BL2U45 line station of Shanghai Light Source, and quickly analyzed its three-dimensional spatial structure. The results enabled the research team to observe and understand the specific interaction between the new coronavirus and the receptor at the atomic level, and found that the new coronavirus was similar to the SARS virus at the key receptor-binding amino acid sites, suggesting that the new coronavirus and the SARS virus have acquired specific and high-affinity binding ability with ACE2 receptors through convergent evolution.

Based on in-depth comparative analysis, the research team also found some amino acid sites that may cause the difference in transmission between the new coronavirus and the SARS virus, as well as amino acid sites that cause antibodies against the SARS virus to be unable to effectively inhibit the new coronavirus infection, and follow-up scientific verification work is underway [1].

■ On March 3, Li Fang's team at the University of Minnesota published a research paper titled "Structural basis of receptor recognition by SARS-CoV-30" online in Nature, which determined the crystal structure of the novel coronavirus receptor-binding domain (RBD) that binds to hACE2 (engineered to promote crystallization). Compared to SARS-CoV RBD, the hACE2-binding fraction in the novel coronavirus RBD has a more compact conformation. On the other hand, some residue changes in the novel coronavirus RBD stabilized the two viral binding hotspots at the RBD/hACE2 interface. These structural features of the novel coronavirus RBD enhance its hACE2 binding affinity. In addition, the study showed that RaTG2, a bat coronavirus closely related to the novel coronavirus, also uses hACE13 as its receptor. In hACE2 identification, the differences between the novel coronavirus, SARS-CoV, and RaTG2 reveal the potential human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus. This study provides guidance for intervention strategies targeting novel coronavirus receptor recognition[13].

■ On March 3, Fudan University Lu et al. published an online report entitled "Inhibition of SARS-CoV-30 (previously 2-nCoV) infection by a highly potent pan-coronavirus fusion inhibitor targeting its spike protein that harbors." A high capacity to mediate membrane fusion", which found that the novel coronavirus has a better ability to fuse the plasma membrane compared to SARS-CoV. This study resolved the X-ray crystal structure of the hexahelix beam (2019-HB) core of the HR2 and HR1 domains in the S2 subunit of the novel coronavirus S protein, revealing that several mutant amino acid residues in the HR6 domain may be associated with enhanced interactions in the HR1 domain. The researchers previously developed a pan-coronavirus fusion inhibitor, EK2, that targets the HR1 domain and can suppress infection by multiple human coronaviruses tested, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. The study found that EK1C1, one of the lipopeptides, showed potent inhibitory activity against novel coronavirus S-mediated membrane fusion and PsV infection, with ICs of 4.50 nM and 1.3 nM in its 15s, which were about 8 times and 1 times stronger than EK240 peptides, respectively. EK150C1 has a highly inhibitory effect on membrane fusion and infection of other tested human coronavirus pseudoviruses, including SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV and SARSr-CoV, and can effectively inhibit the replication of 4 detected human coronaviruses, including novel coronaviruses. Intranasal administration of EK5C43 protects mice from infection before or after infection with HCoV-OC1, suggesting that EK4C1 can be used to prevent and treat the currently circulating novel coronavirus and other emerging SARSr-CoV infections[4].

■ On March 3, the Institute of Pathogenic Biology of the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences/Peking Union Medical College published an article entitled "Characterization of spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-27 on virus entry and its immune cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV" in the journal Nature Communications. Since 2, β coronavirus (CoV) has caused three zoonotic outbreaks, including an outbreak caused by SARS-CoV from 2002 to 3, an outbreak caused by MERS-CoV in 2002, and an outbreak caused by a novel coronavirus in late 2003. Little is known about the biological characteristics of the novel coronavirus. In the article, the researchers used the novel coronavirus S protein pseudoviral system to confirm that human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2012 (hACE2019) is a receptor for the novel coronavirus, and found that the novel coronavirus mainly enters 2/hACE2 cells through endocytosis, PIKfyve, TPC293 and cathepsin L are essential for the virus to enter cells, and the stability of the novel coronavirus S protein is lower than that of the S protein of SARS-CoV. Polyclonal anti-SARS S2 antibody T2 inhibits the entry of SARS-CoV S protein into cells, but does not inhibit the entry of novel coronavirus S pseudoviral particles. Further studies by the researchers using recovered SARS and COVID-1 patient serum showed limited cross-neutralization, suggesting that recovery from one infection may not be able to defend against another. The researchers note that their findings provide potential targets for drug and vaccine development for the novel coronavirus [62].

■ On March 3, The Lancet Infectious Diseases published an article entitled "Clinical and virological data of the first cases of COVID-27 in Europe: a case series" by a research team from the University Hospital de Paris, the University of Paris, the University Hospital of Bordeaux and other institutions. This article reports features associated with the first confirmed COVID-19 cases in Europe, with the first patient diagnosed on 19 January 2020. This article traced five patients admitted to the University Hospital of Bishak-Claude Bernard in Paris, France and the University Hospital of Bordeaux in France, and diagnosed COVID-1 by semi-quantitative RT-PCR with nasopharyngeal swabs. The study assessed the clinical and viral load patterns of the disease through different samples.

The article notes that three of the patients were male (aged 31, 48, and 80 years) and two were female (aged 30 and 46 years), and the study described three different clinical manifestations: (1) two women were diagnosed within one day of symptom onset, had high nasopharyngeal titers within 24 hours of onset, were positive for the novel coronavirus, and viral RNA was detected in feces; (2) The disease of two young men developed in two steps, and although the viral load of the nasopharyngeal sample decreased after the onset, it worsened twice in about 10 days; (3) an 80-year-old man who rapidly developed multiple organ failure and persistently had a high viral load in the upper and lower respiratory tract and died on the 14th day of illness; By 2020 February 2, all other patients had recovered and been discharged from hospital.

The study elaborated on the course of 5 different clinical and biological types in 3 patients infected with the novel coronavirus through detailed and comprehensive virus sampling strategies. The researchers believe that these findings will contribute to a better understanding of the natural history of the disease and the implementation of more effective infection control measures [5].

■ On March 3, the Ningqin team of Tongji Medical College of Huazhong University of Science and Technology published a research paper entitled "Clinical characteristics of 26 deceased patients with coronavirus disease 113: retrospective study" in the top international medical journal BMJ, which comprehensively evaluated the deceased and patients with confirmed COVID-2019. The aim was to describe the clinical characteristics of patients who died from COVID-19. The study found that the median age of the deceased (19 years) was significantly greater than that of those who recovered (68 years). The deceased were predominantly male (51 per cent) and this proportion was higher than the proportion of men among recovered patients (73 per cent). Chronic hypertension and other cardiovascular comorbidities are more common in deceased people than in those who recover. At the same time, dyspnea, chest tightness, and impaired consciousness were more common in deceased patients than in recovered patients. The median time from onset of illness to death was 55 days. The concentrations of alanine aminotransferase, aspartate aminotransferase, creatinine, creatine kinase, lactate dehydrogenase, cardiac troponin I, N-terminal brain natriuretic peptide and D-dimer were significantly higher in deceased patients than in recovered patients. Common complications observed in deceased patients include acute respiratory distress syndrome, type I respiratory failure, sepsis, acute heart injury, heart failure, alkalosis, hyperkalemia, acute kidney injury, and hypoxic encephalopathy, and patients with cardiovascular comorbidities are more likely to have cardiac complications. Regardless of the history of cardiovascular disease, acute heart injury and heart failure were more common in deceased. In summary, severe novel coronavirus infection can cause lung and systemic inflammation, leading to multi-organ dysfunction in high-risk patients. Acute respiratory distress syndrome and respiratory failure, sepsis, acute cardiac injury, and heart failure are the most common key complications during exacerbations of COVID-16 [19].

■ On March 3, researchers from Shantou University and other units published an article in Nature entitled "Identifying SARS-CoV-26 related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins", from the coronavirus detected in a small number of pangolins smuggled to China, it was found that it has a close relationship with the new coronavirus. This similarity is not sufficient to suggest that pangolins are intermediate hosts directly involved in the current novel coronavirus outbreak. However, the findings suggest that pangolins are the second mammalian reservoir for the coronavirus, and wildlife markets should be strictly prohibited from trading pangolins to minimize the risk of future viruses infecting humans [2]



[1] Lan J, Ge J, Yu J, et al. Structure of the SARS-CoV-2 spike receptor-binding domain bound to the ACE2 receptor. Nature 2020.
[2] Shang J, Ye G, Shi K, et al. Structural basis of receptor recognition by SARS-CoV-2. Nature 2020.
[3] Xia S, Liu M, Wang C, et al. Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 (previously 2019-nCoV) infection by a highly potent pan-coronavirus fusion inhibitor targeting its spike protein that harbors a high capacity to mediate membrane fusion. Cell Research 2020.
[4] Ou X, Liu Y, Lei X, et al. Characterization of spike glycoprotein of SARS-CoV-2 on virus entry and its immune cross-reactivity with SARS-CoV. Nat Commun 2020;11:1620.
[5] Lescure F-X, Bouadma L, Nguyen D, et al. Clinical and virological data of the first cases of COVID-19 in Europe: a case series. The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
[6] Chen T, Wu D, Chen H, et al. Clinical characteristics of 113 deceased patients with coronavirus disease 2019: retrospective study. BMJ 2020;368:m1091.
[7] Lam TT-Y, Shum MH-H, Zhu H-C, et al. Identifying SARS-CoV-2 related coronaviruses in Malayan pangolins. Nature 2020.

Comprehensive finishing | Pingshan Biomedical R&D and Transformation Center, Scientific Research Department

Source | Tsinghua University Structural Biology Advanced Innovation Center, iNature, Nature Nature Research

Edit | Bao la