As the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) becomes more widespread, the urgency to develop diagnostic tools for viral screening, and the advancement of viral therapeutics and vaccine candidates becomes increasingly apparent. Here at AAT Bioquest we are committed to providing reliable and sensitive solutions for the advancement of COVID-19 research. Browse our comprehensive portfolio of research solutions from virus discovery, pathogen detection and research surveillance to vaccine development.
Intro to COVID-19
The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It was initially discovered in December 2019, in Wuhan, China, and since then COVID-19 has infected more than 659 million people in 185 countries, resulting in over 6.68 million fatalities (as of January 9, 2023). While most infected patients suffer from mild symptoms characterized by fever, cough and shortness of breath, the disease can progress into fatal cases of pneumonia and acute respiratory failure, notably in older males with comorbidities.
SARS-CoV-2 Structure: RNA & Protein Components
Illustration of the SARS-CoV-2 structure (figure made in BioRender).
Identification and sequencing of the SARS-CoV-2 full-length genome demonstrated that this novel CoV shares a 79.5% sequence identity with the SARS-CoV that occurred in 2002. Similar to SARS-CoV, the SARS-CoV-2 genome encodes four key structural proteins: spike proteins (S), membrane glycoproteins (M), envelope proteins (E) and nucleocaspid proteins (N). The spike protein, which is responsible for facilitating the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into the host cell, utilizes the same host receptor Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2(ACE2) as SARS-CoV for cell entry. Such similarities allude to the possibility that therapies developed during the SARS-CoV outbreak could help prevent or serve as a viable treatment for COVID-19.
For more information regarding the functionality of SARS-CoV-2 proteins and its RNA components, please refer to the table below.
Table 1. Overview of SARS-CoV-2 protein and RNA components.
|Spike Proteins||Spike proteins (S-proteins) are large, heavily-glycosylated transmembrane proteins that form the distinctive “corona” or crown-like appearance on the surface of the virus. The ectodomain of S-proteins are comprised of an N-terminal and a C-terminal domain known as the S1 and S2 subunits, respectively. The S1 subunit, which contains the receptor binding domain, is responsible for recognizing and binding to the host cell receptor. The S2 subunit, which contains a fusion peptide and two heptad repeats (HR1 and HR2), are responsible for virus-cell membrane fusion. From a therapeutic stand point, S-proteins are promising targets for SARS-CoV-2 vaccine and anti-viral development of therapies (e.g. antibodies) capable of blocking virus binding and fusion.|
|Membrane Proteins||Membrane proteins (M-proteins), which are the most abundant of all the structural proteins, define the shape of the viral envelope. M-proteins are considered to be the principal coordinator of SARS-CoV-2 assembly, as it interacts with all of the major coronavirus structural proteins. Interaction of M-proteins with S-proteins promotes retention of S-proteins in the ER-Golgi compartment and its integration into new virions. M-protein and N-protein interactions stabilize the nucleocapsid and facilitate completion of viral assembly. M-protein and E-protein interactions form the viral envelop which assist in the production and release of virus-like particles.|
|Envelope Proteins||Envelope proteins (E-proteins) are the smallest of the structural proteins. They are vital for virus production and maturation and facilitate in the release of the virus. A small portion of E-proteins are integrated into the virion envelope, while the majority localizes at the site of intracellular trafficking (e.g. ER-Golgi).|
|Nucleocapsid Proteins||Nucleocapsid proteins (N-proteins), which are heavily phosphorylated, function primarily to bind the SARS-CoV-2 RNA genome and encapsulate it within the viral envelope forming a ribonucleocapsid complex. This capsid is essential for viral self-assembly and replication. N-proteins also affect host cell responses to viral infection.|
|RNA Genome||RNA is the genome of the virus. Once SARS-CoV-2 enters host cells, it replicates a genomic RNA to produce smaller subgenomic RNA fragments. These fragments are used to synthesize essential proteins (e.g. S-, M-, N- and E-proteins) for viral infection.|
Having the right tools is essential for accelerating scientific discovery for COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2. From genomic tools for viral characterization and vaccine development to immunoassay solutions for the development of rapid diagnostic kits, AAT Bioquest offers comprehensive solutions to advance your research.
Discovering viral genome by Sanger Sequencing
Sanger sequencing by capillary electrophoresis is a chain termination method used to determine the nucleotide order of DNA. Sanger sequencing selectively incorporates chain-terminating dideoxynucleotides (ddNTPs) by DNA polymerase during in vitro
DNA replication. The extension products are then separated by capillary electrophoresis and the molecules are injected by an electrical current into a long glass capillary filled with a gel polymer. Although newer NGS technologies are becoming increasingly common in clinical research labs for their higher throughput capabilities and lower costs per sample, Sanger sequencing is still the "gold standard" for clinical research sequencing with 99.99% efficacy rate. In addition to its role in identifying SARS-CoV-2, Sanger sequencing by capillary electrophoresis can be used to verify reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction results and provide accurate discernment of SARS-CoV-2 from other pathogens.
Table 2. Available MagaDye™ fluorescent ddNTPs for Sanger sequencing.
|MagaDye™ 535-ddGTP||Guanine||503 nm||536 nm||503 nm||5 nmoles||17063|
|MagaDye™ 535-ddGTP||Guanine||503 nm||536 nm||503 nm||50 nmoles||17067|
|MagaDye™ 561-ddATP||Adenine||498 nm||561 nm||498 nm||5 nmoles||17062|
|MagaDye™ 561-ddATP||Adenine||498 nm||561 nm||498 nm||50 nmoles||17066|
|MagaDye™ 588-ddTTP||Thymine||498 nm||588 nm||498 nm||5 nmoles||17061|
|MagaDye™ 588-ddTTP||Thymine||498 nm||588 nm||498 nm||50 nmoles||17065|
|MagaDye™ 613-ddCTP||Cytosine||498 nm||614 nm||498 nm||5 nmoles||17060|
|MagaDye™ 613-ddCTP||Cytosine||498 nm||614 nm||498 nm||50 nmoles||17064|
Table 3. Specifications for MagaDye™ 4 Color Sanger Sequencing Terminator Kit For Research solutions for virus discovery
|MagaDye™ 4 Color Sanger Sequencing Terminator Kit||ddGTP|
|488 nm||536 nm|
|498 nm||5 nmoles||17068|
Research solutions for COVID-19 pathogen detection
Nucleic acid analysis by RT-PCR and serologic assays are two techniques extensively used for the detection of SARS-CoV-2. RT-PCR is the most widely used platform and is recommended for screening or diagnosis of early infection by SARS-CoV-2. RT-PCR works to detect the presence of viral RNA prior to seroconversion, the time period during which a specific antibody develops against the pathogen and becomes detectable in the blood. Serological assays such as the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and the lateral flow immunoassay (LFIA) detect for the presence of antibodies in serum that are produced in response to viral infection.
Fluorescence images of live and fixed HeLa cells stained with StrandBrite RNA Green. Live HeLa cells were stained using StrandBrite™ RNA Green and co-stained with nuclear dye Hoechst 33342 (Cat No. 17530). HeLa cells fixed in methanol were also stained using StrandBrite RNA Green and co-stained with nuclear dye DAPI (Cat No. 17507).
For in-depth info about nucleic acid testing and serological assays, click on: PCR Detection of Viral DNA/RNA Serology Assays for Antibody Detection
Table 4. RNA quantification and PCR reagents
|StrandBrite™ Green Fluorimetric RNA Quantitation Kit *Optimized for Microplate Readers*||490 nm||545 nm||1000 Tests||17655|
|StrandBrite™ Green Fluorimetric RNA Quantitation Kit||490 nm||540 nm||100 Tests||17656|
|StrandBrite™ Green Fluorimetric RNA Quantitation Kit *High Selectivity*||490 nm||540 nm||100 Tests||17657|
|StrandBrite™ Green RNA Quantifying Reagent||490 nm||525 nm||1 mL||17610|
|StrandBrite™ Green RNA Quantifying Reagent||490 nm||525 nm||10 mL||17611|
|Portelite™ Fluorimetric RNA Quantitation Kit||490 nm||525 nm||100 Tests||17658|
|Portelite™ Fluorimetric RNA Quantitation Kit||490 nm||525 nm||500 Tests||17659|
|Cyber Green™ [Equivalent to SYBR® Green] *20X Aqueous PCR Solution*||498 nm||522 nm||5 x 1 mL Tests||17591|
|Cyber Green™ [Equivalent to SYBR® Green] *20X Aqueous PCR Solution*||498 nm||522 nm||1 mL||17592|
|Cyber Green™ Nucleic Acid Gel Stain [Equivalent to SYBR® Green]||498 nm||522 nm||100 µL||17604|
Research solutions for COVID-19 vaccine development
Proteases play essential roles in protein activation, cell regulation and cell signaling, as well as, in the generation of amino acids for protein synthesis or utilization in other metabolic pathways. The inhibition of viral proteases necessary for proteolytic processing of polyproteins has been a successful strategy in the treatment of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and hepatitis C respectively, proving the potential of protease inhibitors for the treatment of viral infections. Similarly, the main protease of SARS-CoV-2 (Mpro
) is thought to be essential for viral gene expression and replication and, therefore, is regarded as a major target for anti-CoV drug design. AAT Bioquest offers a variety of dark-FRET peptide substrates and fluorogenic substrates which can be effectively used to screen for inhibitors of coronavirus proteases, papain-like proteases and more.
FRET mechanisms of Covidyte™ and Covipyte™ COVID-19 peptide substrates (figure made in BioRender). FRET protease substrates are widely used for detecting protease activities, in particular, for virus protease that often require a long peptide sequence for optimal binding such as coronavirus, HIV and HCV proteases. The internally quenched FRET peptide substrate is digested by a protease to generate the highly fluorescent peptide fragment. The fluorescence increase is proportional to the protease activity (figure drawn in BioRender).
Covidyte™ SARS-CoV-2 substrates
Covidyte™ dark-FRET peptide substrates are robust high throughput screening tools for determining inhibitors of coronavirus proteases. Covidyte™ substrates contain either a 12 or 14 amino acid sequence that can be cleaved by coronavirus proteases. Modified to the terminal ends of each amino acid sequence is a fluorescent EDANS donor dye and non-fluorescent DABCYL quencher dye. In its intact conformation, substrate fluorescence is quenched by the two dyes being in close proximity of one another. When the internally quenched Covidyte™ substrate is hydrolyzed by coronavirus proteases, a highly fluorescent peptide fragment is produced, and the fluorescence increase is proportional to the coronavirus proteases activity.
Chemical structure for Covidyte™ EN450.
Table 5. Covidyte™ substrates for screening coronavirus protease inhibitors.
|Covidyte™ EN450||14 amino acids||KTSAVLQSGFRKME||Coronavirus proteases||336||445||5900||100 Tests||13535|
|Covidyte™ EN450||14 amino acids||KTSAVLQSGFRKME||Coronavirus proteases||336||445||5900||1000 Tests||13536|
|Covidyte™ ED450||12 amino acids||VNSTLQSGLRKM||Coronavirus proteases||336||445||5900||100 Tests||13537|
|Covidyte™ ED450||12 amino acids||VNSTLQSGLRKM||Coronavirus proteases||336||445||5900||1000 Tests||13538|
|Covidyte™ TF670||14 amino acids||KTSAVLQSGFRKME||Coronavirus proteases||649||664||250,000||100 Tests||13540|
|Covidyte™ TF670||14 amino acids||KTSAVLQSGFRKME||Coronavirus proteases||649||664||250,000||1000 Tests||13541|
|Covidyte™ IF670||12 amino acids||VNSTLQSGLRKM||Coronavirus proteases||656||670||250,000||100 Tests||13542|
|Covidyte™ IF670||12 amino acids||VNSTLQSGLRKM||Coronavirus proteases||656||670||250,000||1000 Tests||13543|
- ε = Extinction coefficient at their maximum absorption wavelength. The units of extinction coefficient are cm-1M-1.
Covipyte™ SARS-CoV-2 substrates
The Covipyte™ EN450 dark-FRET peptide substrate contains a 9 amino acid sequence (RELNGGAPI) specific for coronavirus papain-like proteases (PLpro). Conjugated to the N- and C-terminals, respectively, are an EDANS donor molecule and a DABCYL quencher molecule. In its intact conformation, substrate fluorescence is quenched by the donor and quencher molecule being in close proximity of one another. When hydrolyzed by coronavirus PLpro, a highly fluorescent Edans fragment is produced and the fluorescence increase is proportional to the coronavirus proteases activity making it a convenient tool for screening and studying the kinetics of PLpro inhibitors. PLpro of coronaviruses carries out proteolytic maturation of non-structural proteins that play a role in replication of the virus and performs deubiquitination of host cell factors to scuttle antiviral responses.
Additionally, AAT Bioquest offers 3 tetra-peptide substrates, Z-KAGG-AMC, Z-KKAG-AMC, and Z-LRGG-AMC, for screening and evaluating coronavirus PLpro inhibitors. Upon hyrolysis by PLpro, these substrates generate highly fluorescent AMC products (Ex/Em = 341/441 nm).
Table 6. Covipyte™ substrates for screening coronavirus protease inhibitors.
|Covipyte™ EN450||9 amino acids||RELNGGAPI||Papain-like proteases||336||445||5900||100 Tests||13545|
|Covipyte™ EN450||9 amino acids||RELNGGAPI||Papain-like proteases||336||445||5900||1000 Tests||13546|
|Z-KAGG-AMC||4 amino acids||KAGG||Papain-like proteases||341||441||19000||1 mg||13552|
|Z-KKAG-AMC||4 amino acids||KKAG||Papain-like proteases||341||441||19000||1 mg||13554|
|Z-LRGG-AMC||4 amino acids||LRGG||Papain-like proteases||341||441||19000||1 mg||13550|
- ε = Extinction coefficient at their maximum absorption wavelength. The units of extinction coefficient are cm-1M-1.
ACE2 Receptor Recognition by SARS-CoV-2
ACE2 dose response was measure with Mca-APK(Dnp) substrate.
The binding of viruses to receptors on the surface of target cells is a critical first step in the infectious viral life cycle as it facilitates the entry of the virus into the host cells. Recently, it has been discovered that the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 utilizes the ACE2 surface receptor on host cells to promote cellular entry. The significance of this discovery recognizes ACE2 as a promising therapeutic target for SARS-CoV-2. To screen and evaluate ACE2 inhibitors AAT Bioquest offers Mca-APK(Dnp), a fluorogenic ACE2 substrate. Upon enzymatic cleavage at the proline-lysine residue, the Dnp quencher is removed and fluorescence of Mca is restored. Mca-APK(Dnp) ACE2 substrates have an excitation and emission maxima of 322 nm and 381 nm, respectively, and are easily adaptable for high through-put screening.
ACE2 substrates for screening ACE2 inhibitors.
|Name||Ex (nm)||Em (nm)||Unit Size||Cat No.|
|Mca-APK(Dnp) ACE2 substrate||322||381||1 mg||13555|
|Mca-APK(Dnp) ACE2 substrate||322||381||10 mg||13556|
- Kong, L., Shaw, N., Yan, L., Lou, Z., & Rao, Z. (2015). Structural view and substrate specificity of papain-like protease from avian infectious bronchitis virus. The Journal of biological chemistry, 290(11), 7160-7168. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M114.628636