What is it about?

The effect of the COVID-19 pandemic has been disastrous. One main lesson from this is the need to develop reagents that can be quickly and widely deployed to accurately detect the spread of the virus to prevent such future catastrophes. However, producing such biological reagents on a large scale is both cost-prohibitive and time-consuming. To sidestep this, we developed reagents that could be remodeled from small natural proteins, called Defensins, using bioengineering technology. The engineered proteins mimic the ACE2 protein expressed on human cells, used by the virus Spike protein to bind and infect the host. The proteins can be produced cheaply and quickly, in large quantities for COVID-19 diagnostics. The reagents can also be potentially used to block the viral infection and function as a therapeutic agent to prevent COVID-19 disease.

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Why is it important?

In the future, this protein engineering method can also produce reagents to detect other emerging pathogens, which can curb the spread of infection at its onset.


To our knowledge, this is a first-in-class example of using Defensin, a natural mini-protein for developing high-affinity protein binders. It represents a superior strategy for producing diagnostic reagents for additional targets.

Dr. Partha Ray
University of California San Diego

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Engineering defensin α‐helix to produce high‐affinity SARS‐CoV ‐2 spike protein binding ligands, Protein Science, May 2022, Wiley, DOI: 10.1002/pro.4355.
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