Dynamic Network Modeling of Allosteric Interactions and Communication Pathways in the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Trimer Mutants: Differential Modulation of Conformational Landscapes and Signal Transmission via Cascades of Regulatory Switches

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The rapidly growing body of structural and biochemical studies of the SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein has revealed a variety of distinct functional states with radically different arrangements of the receptor-binding domain, highlighting a remarkable function-driven conformational plasticity and adaptability of the spike proteins. In this study, we examined molecular mechanisms underlying conformational and dynamic changes in the SARS-CoV-2 spike mutant trimers through the lens of dynamic analysis of allosteric interaction networks and atomistic modeling of signal transmission. Using an integrated approach that combined coarse-grained molecular simulations, protein stability analysis, and perturbation-based modeling of residue interaction networks, we examined how mutations in the regulatory regions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein can differentially affect dynamics and allosteric signaling in distinct functional states. The results of this study revealed key functional regions and regulatory centers that govern collective dynamics, allosteric interactions, and control signal transmission in the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins. We found that the experimentally confirmed regulatory hotspots that dictate dynamic switching between conformational states of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein correspond to the key hinge sites and global mediating centers of the allosteric interaction networks. The results of this study provide a novel insight into allosteric regulatory mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins showing that mutations at the key regulatory positions can differentially modulate distribution of states and determine topography of signal communication pathways operating through state-specific cascades of control switch points. This analysis provides a plausible strategy for allosteric probing of the conformational equilibrium and therapeutic intervention by targeting specific hotspots of allosteric interactions and communications in the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins.


This article was originally published in Journal of Physical Chemistry B, volume 125, issue 3, in 2021. https://doi.org/10.1021/acs.jpcb.0c10637

This scholarship is part of the Chapman University COVID-19 Archives.

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American Chemical Society