Conformational dynamics and allosteric modulation of the SARS-CoV-2 spike

Elife. 2022 Mar 24:11:e75433. doi: 10.7554/eLife.75433.


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects cells through binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). This interaction is mediated by the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the viral spike (S) glycoprotein. Structural and dynamic data have shown that S can adopt multiple conformations, which controls the exposure of the ACE2-binding site in the RBD. Here, using single-molecule Förster resonance energy transfer (smFRET) imaging, we report the effects of ACE2 and antibody binding on the conformational dynamics of S from the Wuhan-1 strain and in the presence of the D614G mutation. We find that D614G modulates the energetics of the RBD position in a manner similar to ACE2 binding. We also find that antibodies that target diverse epitopes, including those distal to the RBD, stabilize the RBD in a position competent for ACE2 binding. Parallel solution-based binding experiments using fluorescence correlation spectroscopy (FCS) indicate antibody-mediated enhancement of ACE2 binding. These findings inform on novel strategies for therapeutic antibody cocktails.

Keywords: infectious disease; microbiology; molecular biophysics; protein dynamics; single-molecule biophysics; structural biology; virus entry; viruses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / chemistry
  • COVID-19
  • Humans
  • Protein Domains
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus* / chemistry


  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2