“Here, we report on a computational comparison of the receptor-binding domains (RBDs) on the spike proteins of severe respiratory syndrome coronavirus‐2 (SARS-CoV-2) and SARS-CoV in free forms and as complexes with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as their receptor in humans. The impact of 42 mutations discovered so far on the structure and thermodynamics of SARS-CoV-2 RBD was also assessed. The binding affinity of SARS-CoV-2 RBD for ACE2 is higher than that of SARS-CoV RBD. The binding of COVA2-04 antibody to SARS-CoV-2 RBD is more energetically favorable than the binding of COVA2-39, but also less favorable than the formation of SARS-CoV-2 RBD-ACE2 complex. The net charge, the dipole moment and hydrophilicity of SARS-CoV-2 RBD are higher than those of SARS-CoV RBD, producing lower solvation and surface free energies and thus lower stability. The structure of SARS-CoV-2 RBD is also more flexible and more open, with a larger solvent-accessible surface area than that of SARS-CoV RBD. Single-point mutations have a dramatic effect on distribution of charges, most prominently at the site of substitution and its immediate vicinity. These charge alterations alter the free energy landscape, while X→F mutations exhibit a stabilizing effect on the RBD structure through π stacking. F456 and W436 emerge as two key residues governing the stability and affinity of the spike protein for its ACE2 receptor. These analyses of the structural differences and the impact of mutations on different viral strains and members of the coronavirus genera are an essential aid in the development of effective therapeutic strategies…”
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