Efficient activation of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus spike protein by the transmembrane protease TMPRSS2

Journal of Virology
Shutoku MatsuyamaFumihiro Taguchi


The distribution of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) receptor, an angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), does not strictly correlate with SARS-CoV cell tropism in lungs; therefore, other cellular factors have been predicted to be required for activation of virus infection. In the present study, we identified transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), whose expression does correlate with SARS-CoV infection in the upper lobe of the lung. In Vero cells expressing TMPRSS2, large syncytia were induced by SARS-CoV infection. Further, the lysosome-tropic reagents failed to inhibit, whereas the heptad repeat peptide efficiently inhibited viral entry into cells, suggesting that TMPRSS2 affects the S protein at the cell surface and induces virus-plasma membrane fusion. On the other hand, production of virus in TMPRSS2-expressing cells did not result in S-protein cleavage or increased infectivity of the resulting virus. Thus, TMPRSS2 affects the entry of virus but not other phases of virus replication. We hypothesized that the spatial orientation of TMPRSS2 vis-a-vis S protein is a key mechanism underling this phenomenon. To test this, the TMPRSS2 and S proteins were expressed in cells labeled with fluorescent...Continue Reading


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