Variants of the coronavirus that were first detected in the U.K., Brazil and South Africa have spread to dozens of countries, and scientists are working to determine what makes them behave differently from earlier versions. Some initial clues have emerged.
Several variants seem to have evolved more efficient ways of binding to and entering cells, a crucial step in being able to reproduce and spread throughout the body.
Essential to this process are spike proteins, which line the virus’s surface and play a critical role in docking with and attaching to human cells.
How Coronavirus Infects Cells
Key Features of the Spike Protein
How New Mutations Affect the Spike Protein
A model generated by Robert F. Garry, a virologist at Tulane University, depicts one of the three subunits of the spike protein. It shows key parts of the spike protein that are affected by the new mutations. These locations provide clues about how the mutations may enhance the function of coronavirus variants, making them potentially more infectious or able to evade some immune responses.
—Daniela Hernandez contributed to this article.
Source: WSJ – US News