Ian Dangerfield Lecture

Friday, October 1, 2021 - 19:00

Speaker: Dr. Eliza Fadda, Department of Chemistry, Maynooth University   

Title: "The Coronavirus Unveiled: Seeing the Unseen through the Lens of High-Performance Computing Simulations"

Abstract:  Complex carbohydrates are the most abundant biomolecules in Nature and yet the most mysterious, appropriately referred to as “the black matter of biology”.

Broadly known to the public for their role as nutrients (e.g. starch) and as the major constituents of plant cell walls (e.g. cellulose), carbohydrates (also known as glycans) play fundamental roles in the
biology of human health and disease, covering our own cells as a ‘fur’, mediating virtually all interactions between the cell and its environment, and functioning as the first port of entry for viral, bacterial and toxin infection. Enveloped viruses, such as coronaviruses, have evolved to use glycans from the host to cloak themselves, as an effective strategy to evade immune recognition and response. Yet, the study of how carbohydrates perform all these fundamental tasks is extremely difficult because their chemical nature and biological origin makes them invisible through most experimental methods.

In this talk I will present how in my lab we use high-performance computing (HPC) molecular simulations to study carbohydrates and to advance our knowledge and understanding on the many roles that
they play in SARS-CoV-2 infection. More specifically, I will focus on how we have recently identified a unique functional role of the glycan shield in the activation of the spike protein [1] and how viral evolution has optimized the invisible carbohydrate cloak (or glycan shield) to enhance infection [2].

1.      Casalino, L.; Gaieb, Z.; Goldsmith J.; Hjorth C.; Dommer, A.; Harbison, A.; Fogarty, C.; Barros, E.; Taylor, B.; McLellan J.; Fadda, E.; Amaro, R., ACS Central Sci (2020).

2.      Harbison, A.; Fogarty, C.; Phung, T.; Satheesan, A.; Schulz, B.; Fadda E., bioRxiv (2021)


Zoom info: TBA