Mutation signatures and in silico docking of novel sars-cov-2 variants of concern

Nariman Shahhosseini, George Babuadze, Gary Wong, Gary P. Kobinger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


One year since the first severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) was reported in China, several variants of concern (VOC) have appeared around the world, with some variants seeming to pose a greater thread to public health due to enhanced transmissibility or infectivity. This study provides a framework for molecular characterization of novel VOC and investigates the effect of mutations on the binding affinity of the receptor-binding domain (RBD) to human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) using in silico approach. Notable nonsynonymous mutations in RBD of VOC include the E484K and K417N/T that can be seen in South African and Brazilian variants, and N501Y and D614G that can be seen in all VOC. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that although the UK-VOC and the BR-VOC fell in the clade GR, they have different mutation signatures, implying an independent evolutionary pathway. The same is true about SAVOC and COH-VOC felling in clade GH, but different mutation signatures. Combining molecular interaction modeling and the free energy of binding (FEB) calculations for VOC, it can be assumed that the mutation N501Y has the highest binding affinity in RBD for all VOC, followed by E484K (only for BR-VOC), which favors the formation of a stable complex. However, mutations at the residue K417N/T are shown to reduce the binding affinity. Once vaccination has started, there will be selective pressure that would be in favor of emergence of novel variants capable of escaping the immune system. Therefore, genomic surveillance should be enhanced to find and monitor new emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants before they become a public health concern.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number926
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Binding free energy
  • Molecular interaction
  • Mutation
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Variants of concern

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Virology


Dive into the research topics of 'Mutation signatures and in silico docking of novel sars-cov-2 variants of concern'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this