Cell entry mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Jian ShangFang Li


A novel severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-like coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) is causing the global coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Understanding how SARS-CoV-2 enters human cells is a high priority for deciphering its mystery and curbing its spread. A virus surface spike protein mediates SARS-CoV-2 entry into cells. To fulfill its function, SARS-CoV-2 spike binds to its receptor human ACE2 (hACE2) through its receptor-binding domain (RBD) and is proteolytically activated by human proteases. Here we investigated receptor binding and protease activation of SARS-CoV-2 spike using biochemical and pseudovirus entry assays. Our findings have identified key cell entry mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2. First, SARS-CoV-2 RBD has higher hACE2 binding affinity than SARS-CoV RBD, supporting efficient cell entry. Second, paradoxically, the hACE2 binding affinity of the entire SARS-CoV-2 spike is comparable to or lower than that of SARS-CoV spike, suggesting that SARS-CoV-2 RBD, albeit more potent, is less exposed than SARS-CoV RBD. Third, unlike SARS-CoV, cell entry of SARS-CoV-2 is preactivated by proprotein convertase furin, reducing its dependence on target cell proteases for entry. The high hACE2 binding affinity of the RBD, fur...Continue Reading


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Datasets Mentioned


Methods Mentioned

surface plasmon resonance
flow cytometry
gel filtration

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