AIMS: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a novel member of the betacoronaviruses family affecting the lower respiratory tract mainly through binding to angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) via its S-protein. Genetic analysis of (ACE2) gene revealed several variants that have been suggested to regulate the interaction with S protein. This study investigates the N720D variant, positioned in the collectrin-like domain (CLD) at proximity to type II transmembrane serine protease (TMPRSS2) cleavage site.
MAIN METHODS: The effect of N720D variant on ACE2 structure and thermodynamic stability was studied by DynaMut. HDOCK was utilised to model TMPRSS2 protease binding to ACE2 WT and D720 variant cleavage site. PRODIGY was used to calculate binding affinities and MD simulation tools calculated the at 100 ns for ACE2 apo structure and the ACE2-TMPRSS2 complex.
KEY FINDINGS: The N720D variant is a more dynamic structure with a free energy change (ΔΔG): -0.470 kcal/mol. As such, introducing a tighter binding affinity of Kd = 3.2 × 10-10 M between TMPRSS2 and N720D variant. RMSD, RMSF calculations showed the N720D variant is less stable, however, RMSF values of the D720-TMPRSS2 complex reflected a slower dynamic motion.
SIGNIFICANCE: The hotspot N720D variant in the CLD of ACE2 affected the stability and flexibility of ACE2 by increasing the level of motion in the loop region, resulting in a more favourable site for TMPRSS2 binding and cleavage. Consequently, this would facilitate S-protein binding and can potentially increase viral entry highlighting the importance of variants affecting the ACE2-TMPRSS2 complex.