Structure of SARS-CoV-2 membrane protein essential for virus assembly

Nat Commun. 2022 Aug 5;13(1):4399. doi: 10.1038/s41467-022-32019-3.


The coronavirus membrane protein (M) is the most abundant viral structural protein and plays a central role in virus assembly and morphogenesis. However, the process of M protein-driven virus assembly are largely unknown. Here, we report the cryo-electron microscopy structure of the SARS-CoV-2 M protein in two different conformations. M protein forms a mushroom-shaped dimer, composed of two transmembrane domain-swapped three-helix bundles and two intravirion domains. M protein further assembles into higher-order oligomers. A highly conserved hinge region is key for conformational changes. The M protein dimer is unexpectedly similar to SARS-CoV-2 ORF3a, a viral ion channel. Moreover, the interaction analyses of M protein with nucleocapsid protein (N) and RNA suggest that the M protein mediates the concerted recruitment of these components through the positively charged intravirion domain. Our data shed light on the M protein-driven virus assembly mechanism and provide a structural basis for therapeutic intervention targeting M protein.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Cryoelectron Microscopy
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins
  • SARS-CoV-2*
  • Virus Assembly


  • Membrane Proteins