Friday , May 14 2021

Sugar molecules form a protective shield against coronaviruses – with points of attack – therapeutic practice

The Max Planck Institute identifies a new Koran virus attack point

A German research team has used a new assay method to reveal a previously unknown point of attack on the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus protein spike. The team showed that some sugar molecules protect the protein spike and protect a large part of the immune defense cells. However, the working group also discovered less well-protected areas of the protein tip that could be targeted.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Biophysics in Frankfurt am Main were able to use a dynamic SARS-CoV-2 model to understand a protective function of the virus, which protects the protein spikes from the cells of the immune system. At the same time, the research also revealed weaknesses in the virus’ protective shield. The results were recently presented in the famous special magazine “Plos”.

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

As the working group points out, the spike protein is a key feature of coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, because with the help of the protein it can adhere to the cell surfaces to infect later. Extensive research has led to the development of detailed models of the coronavirus and its protein. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute have now further improved these models.

Older models of protein spikes were static and could not represent motion. For the first time, the new model is able to simulate the movements of the spike protein itself and the surrounding glucan chains.

Like a wiper

The simulations show that the sugar molecules in the protein spike act as a dynamic protective shield that helps the virus evade the human immune system. Researchers compare the protective function to a windshield wiper that cleans a car windshield. Glucans move back and forth on the protein spike, preventing antibodies from being neutralized by the protein spike.

Not all parts are equally protected

However, research has also shown that not all sites are equally well protected. Similar to a windshield wiper, sugar molecules do not cover all areas of the spike protein. Some areas are less well protected by the glucan shield than others, the researchers point out. Some of the areas discovered have already been identified as weaknesses in previous studies, others are so far unknown.

New starting points against SARS-CoV-2 mutations

“We are in a phase of a pandemic that is constantly changing with the emergence of new variants of SARS-CoV-2, with mutations focusing particularly on the protein spike,” explains Mateusz Sikora of the research team. The new approach could support the design of vaccines and therapeutic antibodies, especially if the already established methods fail.

Finding vulnerabilities in viral proteins

At the same time, the method developed also represents a new way of finding potential weaknesses in other viral proteins, the research team at the Max Planck Institute said. Just recently, a US research team discovered another weak spot in the coronavirus protein spike: You can learn more about it in the article: “COVID-19: New weak spot in the virus found”. (BB)

Author and source information

This text complies with the requirements of the specific medical literature, medical instructions and current studies and has been reviewed by medical professionals.


Diploma Manager (FH)


  • Max Planck Society: Dynamic Model of Sars-CoV-2 Spike Protein Shows Targets for New Vaccines (published: 04/01/2021),
  • Mateusz Sikora, Sören von Bülow, Florian EC Blanc, et al .: Computational map of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein epitopes; at: 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-medication. It can not replace a visit to the doctor.

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