Article Text

Download PDFPDF

Gene of the month: the 2019-nCoV/SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus spike protein
Free
  1. Tahir S Pillay1,2
  1. 1 Department of Chemical Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Pretoria & National Health Laboratory Service, Pretoria, South Africa
  2. 2 Division of Chemical Pathology, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
  1. Correspondence to Professor Tahir S Pillay, Chemical Pathology, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, 0002, South Africa; jclinpatheic{at}gmail.com

Abstract

The year 2020 has seen a major and sustained outbreak of a novel betacoronavirus (severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-coronavirus (CoV)-2) infection that causes fever, severe respiratory illness and pneumonia, a disease called COVID-19. At the time of writing, the death toll was greater than 120 000 worldwide with more than 2 million documented infections. The genome of the CoV encodes a number of structural proteins that facilitate cellular entry and assembly of virions, of which the spike protein S appears to be critical for cellular entry. The spike protein guides the virus to attach to the host cell. The spike protein contains a receptor-binding domain (RBD), a fusion domain and a transmembrane domain. The RBD of spike protein S binds to Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) to initiate cellular entry. The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 shows more than 90% amino acid similarity to the pangolin and bat CoVs and these also use ACE2 as a receptor. Binding of the spike protein to ACE2 exposes the cleavage sites to cellular proteases. Cleavage of the spike protein by transmembrane protease serine 2 and other cellular proteases initiates fusion and endocytosis. The spike protein contains an addition furin cleavage site that may allow it to be ‘preactivated’ and highly infectious after replication. The fundamental role of the spike protein in infectivity suggests that it is an important target for vaccine development, blocking therapy with antibodies and diagnostic antigen-based tests. This review briefly outlines the structure and function of the 2019 novel CoV/SARS-CoV-2 spike protein S.

  • antiviral agents
  • infections
  • laboratory infection
  • viruses
  • virology

This article is made freely available for use in accordance with BMJ’s website terms and conditions for the duration of the covid-19 pandemic or until otherwise determined by BMJ. You may use, download and print the article for any lawful, non-commercial purpose (including text and data mining) provided that all copyright notices and trade marks are retained.

https://bmj.com/coronavirus/usage
View Full Text

Statistics from Altmetric.com

Footnotes

  • Handling editor Runjan Chetty.

  • Contributors TSP is the sole author who conceived and wrote the manuscript.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

Linked Articles