Structural features of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 spike protein: Targets for vaccination

Life Sci. 2020 Sep 15;257:118056. doi: 10.1016/j.lfs.2020.118056. Epub 2020 Jul 6.


Various human pathogenic viruses employ envelope glycoproteins for host cell receptor recognition and binding, membrane fusion and viral entry. The spike (S) glycoprotein of betacoronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is a homotrimeric class I fusion protein that exists in a metastable conformation for cleavage by host cell proteases furin and TMPRSS2, thereby undergoing substantial structural rearrangement for ACE2 host cell receptor binding and subsequent viral entry by membrane fusion. The S protein is densely decorated with N-linked glycans protruding from the trimer surface that affect S protein folding, processing by host cell proteases and the elicitation of humoral immune response. Deep insight into the sophisticated structure of SARS-CoV-2 S protein may provide a blueprint for vaccination strategies, as reviewed herein.

Keywords: ACE2; Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2; Immune response; Protein structure; Receptor binding domain; Spike protein; Vaccination; Viral fusion protein.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Betacoronavirus / immunology
  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy*
  • Coronavirus Infections / immunology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / pathology
  • Coronavirus Infections / prevention & control
  • Humans
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / metabolism
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / immunology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / pathology
  • Pneumonia, Viral / prevention & control
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / chemistry
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / immunology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism
  • Vaccination / methods
  • Virus Internalization


  • Receptors, Virus
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2