IJMS, Vol. 24, Pages 2517: Revealing the Molecular Interactions between Human ACE2 and the Receptor Binding Domain of the SARS-CoV-2 Wild-Type, Alpha and Delta Variants (International Journal of Molecular Sciences)
After a sudden and first spread of the pandemic caused by the novel SARS-CoV-2 (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome—Coronavirus 2) wild-type strain, mutants have emerged which have been associated with increased infectivity, inducing surges in the contagions. The first of the so-called variants of concerns, was firstly isolated in the United Kingdom and later renamed Alpha variant. Afterwards, in the middle of 2021, a new variant appeared called Delta. The latter is characterized by the presence of point mutations in the Spike protein of SARS-CoV-2, especially in the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD). When in its active conformation, the RBD can interact with the human receptor Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) to allow the entry of the virions into cells. In this contribution, by using extended all-atom molecular dynamic simulations, complemented with machine learning post-processing, we analyze the changes in the molecular interaction network induced by these different strains in comparison with the wild-type. On one hand, although relevant variations are evidenced, only limited changes in the global stability indicators and in the flexibility profiles have been observed. On the other hand, key differences were obtained by tracking hydrophilic and hydrophobic molecular interactions, concerning both positioning at the ACE2/RBD interface and formation/disruption dynamic behavior.