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COVID-19: Molecular Basis Infection Revisited One Year into the Pandemic

By Didem Vardar-Ulu

Boston University, Chemistry Department

This adaptation was written in Spring 2021 exactly one year after the original case and includes explorations of the emerging mutations within the spike protein

Listed in Teaching Materials | resource by group Molecular CaseNet Faculty Mentoring Network Spring 2021

Version 1.0 - published on 09 Jun 2021 doi:10.25334/Y1QK-8G33 - cite this

Licensed under CC Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International according to these terms

Adapted from: COVID-19: Molecular Basis of Infection v 1.0

Covid strains.JPG


Overview: This case is an adaptation of the original COVID-19: Molecular Basis of Infection case which discusses how the SARS-Cov-2 Spike protein binds to Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a protein found on the surface of many human cells initiating infections.  The adaptation was designed to be used as a self-guided worksheet to be completed individually prior to class time dedicated for an in depth conversation of many different aspects of the Covid-19 pandemic at the end of the semester during which students had multiple opportunities to familiarize themselves with molecular case studies and develop the structural exploration skills that are listed as the learning objectives of the original case. In addition to focusing on understanding the structure and interaction of the SARS-Cov-2 viral spike protein that facilitates infection in human cells, it also introduces the students to the different variants that have evolved during this time and encourages the students to apply their molecular understanding to assess the impact of emerging mutations on the evolution of the virus.

Learning Objectives:

In addition to the original learning objectives, after completing this adaptation the students should become self-sufficient and proficient in:

  • reading and interpreting current scientific news on COVID-19 and its variants through the use of further molecular exploration using the available structural data in the protein data bank.
  • describing how viral variants are named and why certain variants are considered concerning while others are not.
  • explaining how antibodies and vaccines work

Molecules explored: The key molecules explored here include the SARS-Cov-2 spike protein, human ACE2 protein, and the structure of their complex. Structures of SARS-Cov-2 spike protein with antibodies are also explored.

Implementation: The case was implemented as a flipped self-guided worksheet.


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Molecular CaseNet Faculty Mentoring Network Spring 2021

Molecular CaseNet Faculty Mentoring Network Spring 2021 group image

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