Sunday , May 16 2021

Sugar molecules provide protective protection against coronaviruses – with practice to improve attack points

The Max Planck Institute identifies a new coronavirus attack point

A German research team has used a new analytical method to reveal a previously unknown site of attack in the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus peak protein. The team showed that certain sugar molecules protect the spike protein and protect a large portion of the immune defense cells. However, the team also found less protected areas of the peak protein that could be targeted.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main were able to use the dynamic model of SARS-CoV-2 to understand the protective function of the virus, which protects spike proteins from immune defense cells. At the same time, the study also revealed weaknesses in the virus shield. The results were recently presented in the well-known specialist magazine “Plos”.

Spike protein as a key feature of SARS-CoV-2

As emphasized by the working group, the peak protein is a key feature of the SAR-CoV-2 coronavirus because it can adhere to cell surfaces by means of the protein to infect them. Extensive research has made it possible to create detailed models of the coronavirus and its spike protein. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have now improved these models.

Previous peak protein models were static and could not represent motion. For the first time, the new model is able to simulate the movements of the peak protein itself and the surrounding glycan chains.

Like a windshield wiper

Simulations show that the sugar molecules of the peak protein act as a dynamic shield that helps the virus avoid the human immune system. Researchers compare the protection function with a windshield wiper that cleans a car windshield. Glycans move back and forth through the peak protein, preventing neutralizing antibodies from adhering to the peak protein.

Not all places are equally protected

However, the study also showed that not all places are equally well protected. Similar to a windshield wiper, sugar molecules do not cover all areas of the peak protein. Some areas are less protected by the glycan shield than others, the researchers emphasize. Some of the areas found have already been identified as weak in previous studies, others are not yet known.

New starting points against SARS-CoV-2 mutations

“We are in a pandemic phase that is constantly being changed by the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, with mutations focusing specifically on the peak protein,” says Mateusz Sikora of the research team. A new approach could support the design of vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, especially if already established methods fail.

Finding vulnerabilities in viral proteins

The method developed at the same time also represents a new way to find potential weaknesses in other viral proteins, sums up the research team at the Max Planck Institute. Only recently did an American research team find another weak point in the coronavirus peak protein: For more information, see this article: “COVID-19: A New Weak Point in an Identified Virus.” (vb)

Author and source

This text meets the requirements of specialist medical literature, medical guidelines, and current research and has been reviewed by medical professionals.


Diploma-editor (FH) Volker Blasek


  • Max Planck Society: Dynamic model of Sars-CoV-2 peak protein shows targets for new vaccines (published: 01.01.2021),
  • Mateusz Sikora, Sören von Bülow, Florian EC Blanc et al .: Computational epitope map of the SARS-CoV-2 peak protein; in: Plos Computational Biology, 2021,

Important note:
This article is for general guidance only and is not intended to be used for self-diagnosis or self-care. He cannot replace a doctor’s appointment.

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