Omicron Variant of SARS-CoV-2 Virus: In Silico Evaluation of the Possible Impact on People Affected by Diabetes Mellitus

Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2022 Mar 7:13:847993. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2022.847993. eCollection 2022.


The Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2 (Spike mutant B.1.1.529) carrying more than 30-point mutations in its structure, of which 15 are localized in the receptor-binding domain (RBD), allows to hypothesize a relevant change in interactivity with ACE2. In previous reports we hypothesized that the worse outcome of the COVID-19 disease in diabetes mellitus condition could be related to the non-enzymatic glycation of ACE2 receptor and an in silico evaluation led to the demonstration that the number of interactions is decreased in comparison to the unmodified model, possibly shifting the virus attack through different, multiple alternative entry routes. Given the evidenced features of this variant, we aimed to investigate with a computational approach the characteristics of Omicron SARS-CoV-2 with respect to its binding to human ACE-2 receptor, in a particular population, namely people affected by diabetes mellitus, at risk for unfavorable outcomes of the COVID-19. The computational analysis, considering the case in which all the lysine residues in the system are subjected to non-enzymatic glycation, confirmed that lysine glycation causes a general loss of interactivity between wild-type (WT)-Spike-RBD and ACE2. In the Omicron variant, Lys417 mutates into an asparagine, preventing the possible non-enzymatic glycation of this residue. Therefore, if non-enzymatic glycation seemed to cause a shift in the way in which the virus enters the cell from the ACE2-mediated mechanism to other pathways, in the case of the Omicron variant the ACE2-mediated approach of the virus seems to remain an important event to take into account. Indeed, interaction profile analysis, together with molecular mechanics-generalized Born surface area (MM-GBSA) calculations, suggests that the Omicron-Spike-RBD maintains a higher affinity for ACE2 subsequently to non-enzymatic glycation with respect to WT-Spike-RBD. The finding of the present computational study may suggest a different clinical relevance of the Omicron variant for the diabetes mellitus field, also in the possible direction of a lower severity of the disease.

Keywords: COVID-19; Maillard reaction; Spike protein; diabetes mellitus; glycation; human ACE2 receptor.

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Diabetes Mellitus* / genetics
  • Humans
  • Lysine
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Lysine

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants