The Spike protein is located on the surface of the virus and is in charge of mediating its entry into host cells. In humans, it interacts with ACE2, a receptor found on the surface of target cells (lung, upper-epithelial, intestine).
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The Receptor Binding Domain (RBD) is the section of the S protein that recognizes ACE2. It changes its shape to be able to stabilize the connection between the two proteins.
Spike proteins are highly “decorated” with glycans. These small molecules prevent recognition by host proteases and modulate antibody recognition.
Did you know?
The Spike or S protein is a main target of multiple vaccines, as blocking it might make the virus incapable of invading a host cell.
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The Spike-ACE2 Interaction
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The Spike protein is located at the surface of the virus, while the ACE2 receptor is located on the surface of the human cell.
When the virus comes close to a cell, both proteins interact, and a complex is formed.
Spike changes the conformation of the RBD domain to make the complex stable and begin the infection process.