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Subspecialties Analytical science, COVID-19, Microbiology and immunology

When Coronavirus Says Jump

Cryo-EM structure of the spike of Pangolin-CoV. Credit: Francis Crick Institute.
ACE2 binding. Credit: Francis Crick Institute.

Researchers at the Francis Crick Institute have compared the spike protein structures of SARS-CoV-2, the bat coronavirus RaTG13, and a coronavirus from Malayan pangolins to understand the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic (1). They found that the pangolin-CoV spike protein is more similar to that of RaTG13 than SARS-CoV-2 (except for the receptor-binding domain). However, the team also found that spike proteins from pangolin-CoV can bind strongly to both human and pangolin ACE2 receptors, whereas the RaTG13 was unable to bind with either – suggesting that the pangolin coronavirus could infect humans.

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  1. AG Wrobel et al., Nat Commun, 12, 837 (2021). PMID: 3354728.
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