Omicron mutations increase interdomain interactions and reduce epitope exposure in the SARS-CoV-2 spike
|Title||Omicron mutations increase interdomain interactions and reduce epitope exposure in the SARS-CoV-2 spike|
|Publication Type||Journal Article|
|Year of Publication||2023|
|Authors||Wieczór, Miłosz, Tang Phu K., Orozco Modesto, and Cossio Pilar|
|Keywords||Bioinformatics, Computational molecular modeling, Microbiology, Structural biology|
SummaryOmicron BA.1 is a highly infectious variant of SARS-CoV-2 that carries more than thirty mutations on the spike protein in comparison to the Wuhan wild type (WT). Some of the Omicron mutations, located on the receptor-binding domain (RBD), are exposed to the surrounding solvent and are known to help evade immunity. However, the impact of buried mutations on the RBD conformations and on the mechanics of the spike opening is less evident. Here, we use all-atom molecular dynamics (MD) simulations with metadynamics to characterize the thermodynamic RBD-opening ensemble, identifying significant differences between WT and Omicron. Specifically, the Omicron mutations S371L, S373P, and S375F make more RBD interdomain contacts during the spike’s opening. Moreover, Omicron takes longer to reach the transition state than WT. It stabilizes up-state conformations with fewer RBD epitopes exposed to the solvent, potentially favoring immune or antibody evasion.