On the molecular mechanism of SARS-CoV-2 retention in the upper respiratory tract

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
K. A. ParisCarlos J. Camacho


Cell surface receptor engagement is a critical aspect of viral infection. At low pH, binding of SARS-CoV and its ACE2 receptor has a tight interaction that catalyzes the fusion of the spike and endosomal membranes followed by genome release. Largely overlooked has been the role of neutral pH in the respiratory tract, where we find that SARS-CoV stabilizes a transition state that enhances the off-rate from its receptor. An alternative pH-switch is found in CoV-2-like coronaviruses of tropical pangolins, but with a reversed phenotype where the tight interaction with ACE2 is at neutral pH. We show that a single point mutation in pangolin-CoV, unique to CoV-2, that deletes the last His residue in their receptor binding domain perpetuates this tight interaction independent of pH. This tight bond, not present in previous respiratory syndromes, implies that CoV-2 stays bound to the highly expressed ACE2 receptors in the nasal cavity about 100 times longer than CoV. This finding supports the unfamiliar pathology of CoV-2, observed virus retention in upper respiratory tract 1 , longer incubation times and extended periods of shedding. Implications to combat pandemics that, like SARS-CoV-2, export evolutionarily successful strains via hi...Continue Reading


Jun 7, 2021·Rhinology·M ZugajW J Fokkens

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