SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV Spike-Mediated Cell-Cell Fusion Differ in Their Requirements for Receptor Expression and Proteolytic Activation.

Journal of Virology
Bojan F HörnichAlexander S Hahn


Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infects cells through interaction of its spike protein (SARS2-S) with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and activation by proteases, in particular transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2). Viruses can also spread through fusion of infected with uninfected cells. We compared the requirements of ACE2 expression, proteolytic activation, and sensitivity to inhibitors for SARS2-S-mediated and SARS-CoV-S (SARS1-S)-mediated cell-cell fusion. SARS2-S-driven fusion was moderately increased by TMPRSS2 and strongly by ACE2, while SARS1-S-driven fusion was strongly increased by TMPRSS2 and less so by ACE2 expression. In contrast to that of SARS1-S, SARS2-S-mediated cell-cell fusion was efficiently activated by batimastat-sensitive metalloproteases. Mutation of the S1/S2 proteolytic cleavage site reduced effector cell-target cell fusion when ACE2 or TMPRSS2 was limiting and rendered SARS2-S-driven cell-cell fusion more dependent on TMPRSS2. When both ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were abundant, initial target cell-effector cell fusion was unaltered compared to that of wild-type (wt) SARS2-S, but syncytia remained smaller. Mutation of the S2 cleavage (S2') site specifically abroga...Continue Reading


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