SARS-CoV-2 growth, furin-cleavage-site adaptation and neutralization using serum from acutely infected, hospitalized COVID-19 patients

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
W. B. KlimstraW Paul Duprex


SARS-CoV-2, the causative agent of COVID-19, emerged at the end of 2019 and by mid-June 2020, the virus has spread to at least 215 countries, caused more than 8,000,000 confirmed infections and over 450,000 deaths, and overwhelmed healthcare systems worldwide. Like SARS-CoV, which emerged in 2002 and caused a similar disease, SARS-CoV-2 is a betacoronavirus. Both viruses use human angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) as a receptor to enter cells. However, the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) glycoprotein has a novel insertion that generates a putative furin cleavage signal and this has been postulated to expand the host range. Two low passage (P) strains of SARS-CoV-2 (Wash1: P4 and Munich: P1) were cultured twice in Vero-E6 cells and characterized virologically. Sanger and MinION sequencing demonstrated significant deletions in the furin cleavage signal of Wash1: P6 and minor variants in the Munich: P3 strain. Cleavage of the S glycoprotein in SARS-CoV-2-infected Vero-E6 cell lysates was inefficient even when an intact furin cleavage signal was present. Indirect immunofluorescence demonstrated the S glycoprotein reached the cell surface. Since the S protein is a major antigenic target for the development of neutralizing antibodies we i...Continue Reading

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