The slightly positively charged spike protein is thought to allow the virus to enter the central nervous system and cause a brain infection.
Hassanzadeh, K. et al. Considerations around the SARS-Cov-2 spike protein with particular attention to COVID-19 brain infection and neurological symptoms. ACS Chemical Neuroscience (2020). https://doi.org/10.1021/acschemneuro.0c00373
6 July 2020
Increasing evidence has suggested that the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, may affect the central nervous system in addition to the respiratory system. Despite this, how the virus enters the brain is poorly understood. It is known that the characteristic spike protein (S protein) that lies on the surface of the virus is critical in infecting the lungs. Thus, researchers in this study analyzed the protein sequence and structure of the S protein to understand how it crosses the blood brain barrier that normally protects foreign invaders from entering the nervous system. It was found that the S protein is slightly positively charged, which may allow it to bind to cells in the body easier. Although this is suggested to be a primary factor in allowing the virus to enter the brain and cause an infection, further research is required to elucidate the exact mechanism.
Summary by: Edwin Wong