The receptor binding domain (RBD) of spike proteins plays a crucial role in the process of severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) attachment to the human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). The N501Y mutation and later mutations introduced extra positive charges on the spike RBD and resulted in higher transmissibility, likely due to stronger binding with the highly negatively charged ACE2. Consequently, many studies have been devoted to understanding the molecular mechanism of spike protein binding with the ACE2 receptor. Most of the theoretical studies, however, have been done on isolated proteins. ACE2 is a transmembrane protein; thus, it is important to understand the interaction of spike proteins with ACE2 in a lipid matrix. In this study, the adsorption of ACE2 and spike (N501Y) RBD at a lipid/water interface was studied using the heterodyne-detected vibrational sum frequency generation (HD-VSFG) technique. The technique is a non-linear optical spectroscopy which measures vibrational spectra of molecules at an interface and provides information on their structure and orientation. It is found that ACE2 is effectively adsorbed at the positively charged 1,2-dipalmitoyl-3-trimethylammonium-propane (DPTAP) lipid monolayer via electrostatic interactions. The adsorption of ACE2 at the DPTAP monolayer causes a reorganization of interfacial water (D2O) from the D-down to the D-up orientation, indicating that the originally positively charged DPTAP interface becomes negatively charged due to ACE2 adsorption. The negatively charged interface (DPTAP/ACE2) allows further adsorption of positively charged spike RBD. HD-VSFG spectra in the amide I region show differences for spike (N501Y) RBD adsorbed at D2O, DPTAP, and DPTAP/ACE2 interfaces. A red shift observed for the spectra of spike RBD/DPTAP suggests that spike RBD oligomers are formed upon contact with DPTAP lipids.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
- Surfaces, Coatings and Films
- Materials Chemistry