New Achilles Heel of Coronavirus? Aptamer Molecule Attacks Coronavirus in a Novel Way

COVID-19 Achille's Heel

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Active component hinders infection with so-called pseudoviruses in the test tube, as revealed by research study at the University of Bonn.

Scientists at the University of Bonn and the caesar proving ground have actually separated a particle that may open brand-new opportunities in the battle versus SARS coronavirus 2. The active component binds to the spike protein that the infection utilizes to dock to the cells it contaminates. This avoids them from going into the particular cell, a minimum of when it comes to design infections. It appears to do this by utilizing a various system than formerly understood inhibitors. The scientists for that reason believe that it might likewise assist versus viral anomalies. The research study will be released in the journal Angewandte Chemie and is currently offered online.

The unique active component is a so-called aptamer. These are brief chains of DNA, the chemical substance that likewise comprises chromosomes. DNA chains like to connect themselves to other particles; one may call them sticky. In chromosomes, DNA is for that reason present as 2 parallel hairs whose sticky sides deal with each other which coil around each other like 2 twisted threads.

Aptamer Secondary Structure

In the background is the automatic SELEX platform at the LIMES Institute of the University of Bonn. Credit: © Stefan Breuers/LIMES

Aptamers, on the other hand, are single-stranded. This permits them to form bonds with particles to which standard DNA would not usually bind and to affect their function. This makes them fascinating for research study into active components, particularly because it is now extremely simple to produce big libraries of various aptamers. Some of these libraries include countless times more prospective active components than there are individuals surviving on Earth. “We used such a library to isolate aptamers that can attach to the spike protein of SARS coronavirus 2,” describes Prof. Dr. Günter Mayer of the LIMES Institute (the acronym represents “Life and Medical Sciences”) at the University of Bonn.

Spike is necessary for the infection

The spike protein is necessary for the infection: It utilizes it to dock onto the cells it assaults. In the procedure, the protein binds to a particle on the surface area of its victims called ACE2, which successfully locks into the spike protein, similar to a ski boot in a ski binding. The infection then merges with the cell and reprograms it to produce many brand-new infections. “The vast majority of antibodies we know today prevent docking,” Mayer describes. “They attach to the part of the spike protein responsible for recognizing ACE2, which is the receptor binding domain, or RBD.”

Prof. Dr. Günter Mayer, Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok, Dr. Anna Maria Weber and Dr. Anton Schmitz

Prof. Dr. Günter Mayer, Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok, Dr. Anna Maria Weber, and Dr. Anton Schmitz from the LIMES Institute at the University of Bonn. Prof. Famulok likewise operates at the caesar proving ground in Bonn. Credit: © Volker Lannert/Uni Bonn

The now separated aptamer with the abbreviation SP6 likewise binds to the spike protein, however at a various website. “SP6 does not prevent viruses from docking to target cells,” describes Prof. Dr. Michael Famulok of the LIMES Institute, who likewise operates at the caesar proving ground in Bonn. “Nevertheless, it reduces the level of cell infection by the virus; we do not yet know which mechanism is responsible for this.” The scientists did not utilize genuine coronaviruses in their experiments, however so-called pseudoviruses. These bring the spike protein on their surface area; nevertheless, they cannot trigger illness. “We now need to see if our results are confirmed in real viruses,” Famulok for that reason highlights.

New Achilles heel of coronavirus?

If so, in the medium term the work might for example lead to a sort of nasal spray that secures versus coronavirus infection for a couple of hours. The required research studies will definitely take months to finish. Irrespective of this, nevertheless, the outcomes might assist to much better comprehend the systems associated with infection. This is even more essential since the existing active components generally target the receptor domain. In the so-called “British mutation,” this domain is modified so that it binds more highly to ACE2. “The more such mutations accumulate, the greater the risk that the available drugs and vaccines will no longer work,” worries Günter Mayer. “Our study may draw attention to an alternative Achilles’ heel of the virus.”

The outcomes are likewise proof of effective cooperation: Mayer and his postdoctoral scientist Dr. Anna Maria Weber were mainly accountable for identifying the aptamer. Prof. Famulok’s group at the caesar proving ground was accountable for performing the pseudovirus experiments, which were led by his coworker Dr. Anton Schmitz. Famulok and Mayer are members of the Transdisciplinary Research Areas “Life & Health” and “Building Blocks of Matter and Fundamental Interactions.” Mayer likewise heads the Center of Aptamer Research and Development (CARD) at the University of Bonn.

Reference: “A SARS‐CoV‐2 Spike Binding DNA Aptamer that Inhibits Pseudovirus Infection by an RBD‐Independent Mechanism” by Anton Schmitz, Anna Weber, Mehtap Bayin, Stefan Breuers, Volkmar Fieberg, Michael Famulok and Günter Mayer, 8 March 2021, Angewandte Chemie International.
DOI: 10.1002/anie.202100316

The research study was moneyed by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and the German Research Foundation (DFG).