Screening coronavirus and human proteins for sialic acid binding sites using a docking approach

Chia Wen Wang, Oscar K. Lee, Wolfgang B. Fischer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


The initial step of interaction of some pathogens with the host is driven by the interaction of glycoproteins of either side via endcaps of their glycans. These end caps consist of sialic acids or sugar molecules. Coronaviruses (CoVs), including severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), are found to use this route of interaction. The strength and spatial interactions on the single molecule level of sialic acids with either the spike (S) protein of SARS coronaviruses, or human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and furin are probed and compared to the binding modes of those sugar molecules which are present in glycans of glycoproteins. The protocol of using single molecules is seen as a simplified but effective mimic of the complex mode of interaction of the glycans. Averaged estimated binding energies from a docking approach result in preferential binding of the sialic acids to a specific binding site of the S protein of human coronavirus OC43 (HCoV-OC43). Furin is proposed to provide better binding sites for sialic acids than ACE2, albeit outweighed by sites for other sugar molecules. Absolute minimal estimated binding energies indicate weak binding affinities and are indifferent to the type of sugar molecules and the proteins. Neither the proposed best binding sites of the sialic acids nor those of the sugar molecules overlap with any of the cleavage sites at the S protein and the active sites of the human proteins.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-263
Number of pages16
JournalAIMS Biophysics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • docking approach
  • human receptor proteins
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • sialic acids
  • spike protein
  • sugar molecules


Dive into the research topics of 'Screening coronavirus and human proteins for sialic acid binding sites using a docking approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this