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Water-Glycan Interactions Drive the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Dynamics: Insights into Glycan-Gate Control and Camouflage Mechanism


To develop therapeutic strategies against COVID-19, we introduce a high-resolution all-atom polarizable model capturing many-body effects of protein, glycans, solvent, and membrane components in SARS-CoV-2 spike protein open and closed states. Employing s-long molecular dynamics simulations powered by high-performance cloud-computing and unsupervised density-driven adaptive sampling, we investigated the differences in bulk-solvent-glycan and protein-solvent-glycan interfaces between these states. We unraveled a sophisticated solvent-glycan polarization interaction network involving the N165/N343 residues that provide structural support for the open state and identified key water molecules that could potentially be targeted to destabilize this configuration. In the closed state, the reduced solvent polarization diminishes the overall N165/N343 dipoles, yet internal interactions and a reorganized sugar coat stabilize this state. Despite variations, our glycan-solvent accessibility analysis reveals the glycan shield capability to conserve constant interactions with the solvent, effectively camouflaging the virus from immune detection in both states. The presented insights advance our comprehension of viral pathogenesis at an atomic level, offering potential to combat COVID-19.