Enzymes and Coronavirus

So what is COVID-19 also known as the Coronavirus? COVID-19 is an infectious moderate respiratory illness that is caused by the new coronavirus which emerged in China. It has led to a pandemic infecting more than 36 million people. Its genome sequence is related to SARS-CoV-2 and was not made artificially. Here is a short video about COVID-19. Enzymes are proteins that speed up chemical reactions in the body and they act as a catalyst by lowering the activation energy. So how are enzymes and COVID-19 related? The enzymes work with COVID-19 to replicate and weaken certain organs and systems. Knowing how these enzymes work, it can help researchers develop a cure. Let’s find out how.

The International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology has found out how the RNA replicates so quickly with the help of enzymes. The SARS-CoV replicase codes for many proteins and also for enzyme activities. These enzymes replicate the RNA strand of the virus which then spreads throughout your body and keeps replicating. Some of these enzymes are in important pathways in your body and can prevent normal cellular activity which harms the function of cells in these pathways like the respiratory pathway. Enzymes can speed up RNA replication and some can also help it bind to a human cell. The TMPRSS2 protease is the main enzyme in which causes the coronavirus to activate its spike protein so it can attach to respiratory epithelial cells(ACE-2). The ACE-2 is the receptor on the human cell where the spike protein (S-protein) in the virus binds to. After it binds to the cell, then the virus takes over the healthy cell and kills it. The more cells it can take over in the lungs and respiratory system, the more capacity you lose in your lungs as well as making you weak and susceptible to more complications. When the virus binds to many human cells in the respiratory system, it causes the development of pneumonia. Research also shows the virus can bind to the epithelial cells in the gastrointestinal tract and it causes diarrhea and stomach pain.

Using this information, researchers can come up with a cure in the real world. Knowing TMPRSS2 helps it bind to the human cell, if we can inhibit this enzyme then the virus will not be able to attach to the human cell as easily as it does. Inhibiting the TMPRSS2 will prohibit the priming of the S protein. With this information, if we can block the ACE-2 receptor on the host cell as well then, the virus won’t be able to bind to the human cell therefore slowing down its spread and affect. Mice with TMPRSS2 suppressed and inhibited show no symptoms of pneumonia compared to regular wild mice which do contract pneumonia. If researchers can successfully find safe inhibitors for ACE-2 and TMPRSS2 then we would be able to stop the spread. There are already some options that can do this, but they are still in testing. Overall, the enzymes cause RNA replication so the virus can spread and the TMPRSS2 enzyme activates the S-protein so it can bind to ACE-2 on the human cell to inhibit its function and weaken the respiratory system. Understanding that is a key factor in the development of drugs for this virus.

About Mr. Mohn

Biology Teacher

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