Since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, there have been intense structural studies on purified recombinant viral components and inactivated viruses. However, investigation of the SARS-CoV-2 infection in the native cellular context is scarce, and there is a lack of comprehensive knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 replicative cycle. Understanding the genome replication, assembly and egress of SARS-CoV-2, a multistage process that involves different cellular compartments and the activity of many viral and cellular proteins, is critically important as it bears the means of medical intervention to stop infection. Here, we investigated SARS-CoV-2 replication in Vero cells under the near-native frozen-hydrated condition using a unique correlative multi-modal, multi-scale cryo-imaging approach combining soft X-ray cryo-tomography and serial cryoFIB/SEM volume imaging of the entire SARS-CoV-2 infected cell with cryo-electron tomography (cryoET) of cellular lamellae and cell periphery, as well as structure determination of viral components by subtomogram averaging. Our results reveal at the whole cell level profound cytopathic effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, exemplified by a large amount of heterogeneous vesicles in the cytoplasm for RNA synthesis and virus assembly, formation of membrane tunnels through which viruses exit, and drastic cytoplasm invasion into nucleus. Furthermore, cryoET of cell lamellae reveals how viral RNAs are transported from double-membrane vesicles where they are synthesized to viral assembly sites; how viral spikes and RNPs assist in virus assembly and budding; and how fully assembled virus particles exit the cell, thus stablishing a model of SARS-CoV-2 genome replication, virus assembly and egress pathways.
The SARS-CoV-2 virus is more transmissible than previous coronaviruses and causes a more serious illness than influenza. The SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein binds to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor as a prelude to viral entry into the cell. Using a naive llama single-domain antibody library and PCR-based maturation, we have produced two closely related nanobodies, H11-D4 and H11-H4, that bind RBD (KD of 39 and 12 nM, respectively) and block its interaction with ACE2. Single-particle cryo-EM revealed that both nanobodies bind to all three RBDs in the spike trimer. Crystal structures of each nanobody–RBD complex revealed how both nanobodies recognize the same epitope, which partly overlaps with the ACE2 binding surface, explaining the blocking of the RBD–ACE2 interaction. Nanobody-Fc fusions showed neutralizing activity against SARS-CoV-2 (4–6 nM for H11-H4, 18 nM for H11-D4) and additive neutralization with the SARS-CoV-1/2 antibody CR3022.
Bacteria produce under certain stress conditions bacteriocins and microcins that display antibacterial activity against closely related species for survival. Bacteriocins and microcins exert their antibacterial activity by either disrupting the membrane or inhibiting essential intracellular processes of the bacterial target. To this end, they can lyse bacterial membranes and cause subsequent loss of their integrity or nutrients, or hijack membrane receptors for internalisation. Both bacteriocins and microcins are ribosomally synthesised and several are posttranslationally modified, whereas others are not. Such peptides are also toxic to the producer bacteria, which utilise immunity proteins or/and dedicated ATP‐binding cassette (ABC) transporters to achieve self‐immunity and peptide export. In this review, we discuss the structure and mechanism of self‐protection that is conferred by these ABC transporters.
COVID-19, caused by SARS-CoV-2, lacks effective therapeutics. Additionally, no antiviral drugs or vaccines were developed against the closely related coronavirus, SARS-CoV-1 or MERS-CoV, despite previous zoonotic outbreaks. To identify starting points for such therapeutics, we performed a large-scale screen of electrophile and non-covalent fragments through a combined mass spectrometry and X-ray approach against the SARS-CoV-2 main protease, one of two cysteine viral proteases essential for viral replication. Our crystallographic screen identified 71 hits that span the entire active site, as well as 3 hits at the dimer interface. These structures reveal routes to rapidly develop more potent inhibitors through merging of covalent and non-covalent fragment hits; one series of low-reactivity, tractable covalent fragments were progressed to discover improved binders. These combined hits offer unprecedented structural and reactivity information for on-going structure-based drug design against SARS-CoV-2 main protease.
There are as yet no licensed therapeutics for the COVID-19 pandemic. The causal coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) binds host cells via a trimeric spike whose receptor binding domain (RBD) recognizes angiotensin-converting enzyme 2, initiating conformational changes that drive membrane fusion. We find that the monoclonal antibody CR3022 binds the RBD tightly, neutralizing SARS-CoV-2, and report the crystal structure at 2.4 Å of the Fab/RBD complex. Some crystals are suitable for screening for entry-blocking inhibitors. The highly conserved, structure-stabilizing CR3022 epitope is inaccessible in the prefusion spike, suggesting that CR3022 binding facilitates conversion to the fusion-incompetent post-fusion state. Cryogenic electron microscopy (cryo-EM) analysis confirms that incubation of spike with CR3022 Fab leads to destruction of the prefusion trimer. Presentation of this cryptic epitope in an RBD-based vaccine might advantageously focus immune responses. Binders at this epitope could be useful therapeutically, possibly in synergy with an antibody that blocks receptor attachment.
A clear understanding of catalytic activity enhancement mechanisms in fuel cell operation is necessary for a full degree translation of the latest generation of non-Pt/C fuel cell electrocatalysts into high-performance electrodes in proton-exchange membrane fuel cells (PEMFCs). In this work, PtNi nanowire (NW) array gas diffusion electrodes (GDEs) are fabricated from Pt NW arrays with Ni impregnation. A 2.84-fold improvement in the oxygen reduction reaction catalytic activity is observed for the PtNi NW array GDE (cf. the Pt NW array GDE) using half-cell GDE measurement in a 0.1 M HClO4 aqueous electrolyte at 25 °C, in comparison to only a 1.07-fold power density recorded in the PEMFC single-cell test. An ionomer is shown to significantly increase the electrochemically active surface area of the GDEs, but the PtNi NW array GDE suffers from Ni ion contamination at a high temperature, contributing to decreased catalytic activities and limited improvement in operating PEMFCs.
The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented health and economic impact and there are currently no approved therapies. We have isolated an antibody, EY6A, from an individual convalescing from COVID-19 and have shown that it neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 and cross-reacts with SARS-CoV-1. EY6A Fab binds the receptor binding domain (RBD) of the viral spike glycoprotein tightly (KD of 2 nM), and a 2.6-Å-resolution crystal structure of an RBD–EY6A Fab complex identifies the highly conserved epitope, away from the ACE2 receptor binding site. Residues within this footprint are key to stabilizing the pre-fusion spike. Cryo-EM analyses of the pre-fusion spike incubated with EY6A Fab reveal a complex of the intact spike trimer with three Fabs bound and two further multimeric forms comprising the destabilized spike attached to Fab. EY6A binds what is probably a major neutralizing epitope, making it a candidate therapeutic for COVID-19.
Clinical development of the COVID-19 vaccine candidate ChAdOx1 nCoV-19, a replication-deficient simian adenoviral vector expressing the full-length SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein was initiated in April 2020 following non-human primate studies using a single immunisation. Here, we compared the immunogenicity of one or two doses of ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 in both mice and pigs. Whilst a single dose induced antigen-specific antibody and T cells responses, a booster immunisation enhanced antibody responses, particularly in pigs, with a significant increase in SARS-CoV-2 neutralising titres.