Proteolytic Cleavage of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein and the Role of the Novel S1/S2 Site

IScience
Javier A JaimesGary R Whittaker

Abstract

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has rapidly spread to the entire world within a few months. The origin of SARS-CoV-2 has been related to the lineage B Betacoronavirus SARS-CoV and SARS-related coronaviruses found in bats. Early characterizations of the SARS-CoV-2 genome revealed the existence of a distinct four amino acid insert within the spike (S) protein (underlined, SPRRAR↓S), at the S1/S2 site located at the interface between the S1 receptor binding subunit and the S2 fusion subunit. Notably, this insert appears to be a distinguishing feature among SARS-related sequences and introduces a potential cleavage site for the protease furin. Here, we investigate the potential role of this novel S1/S2 cleavage site and present direct biochemical evidence for proteolytic processing by a variety of proteases. We discuss these findings in the context of the origin of SARS-CoV-2, viral stability, and transmission.

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Methods Mentioned

BETA
cleavage assay
Cleavage
Assay
glycosylation
peptide assay

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