As far as virlology is concerned, peplomer protein or spike protein comes across as a large structure that projects from enveloped virus’ structure. These proteins are glycoproteins forming trimmers or dimers. The term “spike protein”, in todays, scenario, does refer to coronavirus spike protein. It is one amongst the 4 major structural proteins that is common to every coronavirus. This does give rise to discrete appearance of their in the electron micrographs.
Coming to the recent breakthrough on this count, a scientist of Indian origin, along with the fellow-researchers, at the University of British Columbia, conducted the first-ever molecular-level structural analysis pertaining to Omicron spike protein. This research would, indeed, prove to be a breakthrough for developing effective treatments against this variant.
Dr. Sriram Subramaniam, who holds the distinction of being a professor in UBC faculty of biochemistry and molecular biology departments’, has stated that Omicron does have higher binding affinity as compared to original SARS-CoV-2 virus, that too, with levels more similar to the one seen with Delta variant.
The findings mentioned above have been published in Science Journal released by Vancouver-based university. It also contains the fact that Omicron is highly transmissible. A cryo-electron microscope is used for analysing this.
What’s more to the Findings?
The further facts are – Strong evasion of antibodies and binding with the human cells contribute to growing transmissibility. As such, vaccination is the best course of defense.
Dr. Subramaniam has gone on record to state that Omicron variant is unparalleled, as it has 37 spike protein mutations, which is, in fact, 3 to 5 times more than various other variants. Also, he tabled the fact that numerous mutations (R498, S496, and R493) do create new-fangled salt bridges as well as hydrogen bonds between human cell receptor and spike protein called ACE2.
The procedure mentioned above seems to increase the binding affinity, i.e. the way the virus gets attached to the human cells, whereas the other mutations (K417N) do decrease strength of the same bond.
The ultimate conclusion is that Omicron spike protein performs better than the other variants at escaping the monoclonal antibodies commonly used in the form of treatments, and also at avoiding immunity caused by both – natural infection and vaccines.
In a nutshell, on getting to know the spike protein’s molecular structure, more effective treatments against the other variants (Omicron, in particular) would be possible. This would certainly create ripples herein going forward.