Coronavirus: The spike

Coronavirus is “the gigantic elephant in the room”, which we are still trying to find out how to live with it. If there is one thing we have picked up about the Coronavirus, the spikes play a crucial role in the viral efficacy. The new variants have several changes in the spike protein and that’s one reason why new variants are more concerning than the previous ones.

The coronavirus spike protein is a multifunctional molecular machine that mediates coronavirus entry into host cells. It first binds to a receptor on the host cell surface through its S1 subunit and then fuses viral and host membranes through its S2 subunit. Two domains in S1 from different coronaviruses recognize a variety of host receptors, leading to viral attachment.1






The new mutations may change the biology of the spike and could lead the virus to be more transmissible. That’s why scientists have been particularly working on these spikes to stop the pandemic. On the other hand, the spike protein is also the basis of current COVID-19 vaccines. For example, the mRNA technology vaccines give instructions to our immune system to make our own version of the spike protein, which happens quickly following immunisation. After the production of the spike inside our cells, protective antibody and T cell production starts.

In the near future, scientists will find new/ alternative ways to combat the viruses, and there is no hesitation the spikes will also take part in the middle of these studies.

Reference: 1) Fang Li. Annu. Rev. Virol. 2016. 3:237–61