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Preprint in English | Other preprints | ID: ppcovidwho-295349


Summary Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the agent causing the COVID-19 pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 (Alpha), a WHO variant of concern (VOC) first identified in the UK in late 2020, contains several mutations including P681H in the spike S1/S2 cleavage site, which is predicted to increase cleavage by furin, potentially impacting the viral cell entry. Here, we studied the role of the P681H mutation in B.1.1.7 cell entry. We performed assays using fluorogenic peptides mimicking the Wuhan-Hu-1 and B.1.1.7 S1/S2 sequence and observed no significant difference in furin cleavage. Functional assays using pseudoparticles harboring SARS-CoV-2 spikes and cell-to-cell fusion assays demonstrated no differences between Wuhan-Hu-1, B.1.1.7 or a P681H point mutant. Likewise, we observed no differences in viral growth between USA-WA1/2020 and a B.1.1.7 isolate in cell culture. Our findings suggest that while the B.1.1.7 P681H mutation may slightly increase S1/S2 cleavage this does not significantly impact viral entry or cell-cell spread. Highlights SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 VOC has a P681H mutation in the spike that is predicted to enhance viral infection P681H does not significantly impact furin cleavage, viral entry or cell-cell spread Other mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 VOC may account for increased infection rates Graphical abstract