A Tethered Ligand Assay to Probe the SARS-CoV-2 ACE2 Interaction under Constant Force

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
M. S. BauerJan Lipfert


The current COVID-19 pandemic has a devastating global impact and is caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. SARS-CoV-2 attaches to human host cells through interaction of its receptor binding domain (RBD) located on the viral Spike (S) glycoprotein with angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) on the surface of host cells. RBD binding to ACE2 is a critical first step in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Viral attachment occurs in dynamic environments where forces act on the binding partners and multivalent interactions play central roles, creating an urgent need for assays that can quantitate SARS-CoV-2 interactions with ACE2 under mechanical load and in defined geometries. Here, we introduce a tethered ligand assay that comprises the RBD and the ACE2 ectodomain joined by a flexible peptide linker. Using specific molecular handles, we tether the fusion proteins between a functionalized flow cell surface and magnetic beads in magnetic tweezers. We observe repeated interactions of RBD and ACE2 under constant loads and can fully quantify the force dependence and kinetics of the binding interaction. Our results suggest that the SARS-CoV-2 ACE2 interaction has higher mechanical stability, a larger free energy of binding, and a lower off-rate than that o...Continue Reading

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