The SARS-CoV-2 Structure – An Excerpt

The SARS-CoV-2 Structure – An Excerpt
                                
Viruses are submicroscopic infectious particles with a seemingly simpler structure – a genetic material surrounded by a shell mainly composed of proteins. But deep down, they are not that simple at all. The causative agent of recent global pandemic of pneumonia like syndrome or COVID-19 is caused by a newly discovered virus of corona virus family and is nomenclatured as severe acute respiratory syndrome corona virus or SARS-CoV-2. It is a spherical virus of approximately 120 nm in diameter. They have RNA as their genetic material. It is this RNA genome that enables them to hijack the human cell machinery to perpetuate themselves by creating a tsunami of new virus particles. The virus latches itself on ACE-2 receptor present in human lower respiratory tract by its spike proteins and starts its journey in the human body. Sugars dot the outside of these spikes, just like sugars dot the outside of human cells. The virus utilizes this sugar camouflage as a Trojan horse to fool the human immune system and goes undetected.  Also, it is these telltale series of spike proteins that give the virus its characteristic crowned look and hence the name Corona virus or crowned virus. These spike protein (S) along with membrane protein (M) and envelope protein (E) are anchored to a lipid bilayer to constitute the outer envelope of the virus.  Inside this envelop, there is the nucleocapsid which is formed by multiple copies of nucleocapsid protein (N). This nucleocapsid in turn protects the RNA genome of the virus. Hence it is of prime importance to understand the very details of the virus structure and its interaction with human proteins as well to design the Holy Grail vaccine against this disease.


Dr. Priyanka Bhowmik
Department of Microbiology, 
Techno India University, West Bengal.
Ex. Post Doctoral Fellow, NICED ICMR Virus laboratory.

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