Charge Matters: Mutations in Omicron Variant Favor Binding to Cells
Nie, C.; Sahoo, A.K.; Netz, R.; Herrmann, A.; Ballauff, M.; Haag, R. – 2022
Evidence is strengthening to suggest that the novel SARS-CoV-2 mutant Omicron, with its more than 60 mutations, will spread and dominate worldwide. Although the mutations in the spike protein are known, the molecular basis for why the additional mutations in the spike protein that have not previously occurred account for Omicron's higher infection potential, is not understood. We propose, based on chemical rational and molecular dynamics simulations, that the elevated occurrence of positively charged amino acids in certain domains of the spike protein (Delta: +4; Omicron: +5 vs. wild type) increases binding to cellular polyanionic receptors, such as heparan sulfate due to multivalent charge-charge interactions. This observation is a starting point for targeted drug development.