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1.
mBio ; : e0137622, 2022 Aug 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1973797

ABSTRACT

The continuous emergence of new variants of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) urges better understanding of the functional motifs in the spike (S) protein and their tolerance to mutations. Here, we focused on the S2' motif, which, during virus entry, requires cleavage by a host cell protease to release the fusion peptide. Though belonging to an immunogenic region, the SARS-CoV-2 S2' motif (811-KPSKR-815) has shown hardly any variation, with its three basic (K/R) residues being >99.99% conserved thus far. By creating a series of mutant pseudoviruses bearing the spikes of Wuhan-Hu-1, its G614 mutant or the Delta and Omicron variants, we show that residue K814 (preceding the scissile R815) is dispensable for TMPRSS2 yet favored by the alternative TMPRSS13 protease. Activation by TMPRSS13 was drastically reduced when the SARS-CoV-2 S2' motif was swapped with that of the low pathogenic 229E coronavirus (685-RVAGR-689), and also, the reverse effect was seen. This swap had no impact on recognition by TMPRSS2. In the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) spike, introducing a dibasic scissile motif was easily accepted by TMPRSS13 but less so by TMPRSS2, confirming that TMPRSS13 favors a sequence rich in K/R residues. Pseudovirus entry experiments in Calu-3 cells confirmed that the S2' mutations have minor impact on TMPRSS2. Our findings are the first to demonstrate which S2' residues are important for SARS-CoV-2 spike activation by these two airway proteases, with TMPRSS2 being more tolerant to variation than TMPRSS13. This preemptive insight will help to estimate the impact of S2' motif changes as they appear in new SARS-CoV-2 variants. IMPORTANCE Since its introduction in humans, SARS-CoV-2 is evolving with frequent appearance of new variants. The surveillance would benefit from proactive characterization of the functional motifs in the spike (S) protein, the most variable viral factor. This is linked to immune evasion but also influences spike functioning. Remarkably, though located in a strongly immunogenic region, the S2' cleavage motif has, thus far, remained highly conserved. This suggests that its sequence is critical for spike activation by airway proteases. To investigate this, we assessed how pseudovirus entry is affected by changes in the S2' motif. We demonstrate that TMPRSS2 readily accepts variations in this motif, whereas the alternative TMPRSS13 protease is more fastidious. The Wuhan-Hu-1, G614, Delta and Omicron spikes showed no difference in this regard. Being the first in its kind, our study will help to assess the impact of S2' variations as soon as they are detected during variant surveillance.

2.
EuropePMC;
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-327167

ABSTRACT

The continuous emergence of new SARS-CoV-2 variants urges better understanding of the functional motifs in the spike (S) protein and their tolerance towards mutations. We here focus on the S2′ motif which, during virus entry, requires cleavage by a cell surface protease to release the fusion peptide. Though belonging to an immunogenic region, the SARS-CoV-2 S2′ motif (811-KPSKR-815) has shown hardly any variation, with its three basic (K/R) residues being >99.99% conserved thus far. By creating a series of mutant S-pseudotyped viruses, we show that K 814 , which precedes the scissile R 815 residue, is dispensable for SARS-CoV-2 spike activation by TMPRSS2 but not TMPRSS13. The latter protease lost its activity towards SARS-CoV-2 S when the S2′ motif was swapped with that of the low pathogenic 229E coronavirus (685-RVAGR-689) and also the reverse effect was seen. This swap had no impact on TMPRSS2 activation. Also in the MERS-CoV spike, introducing a dibasic scissile motif was fully accepted by TMPRSS13 but less so by TMPRSS2. Our findings are the first to demonstrate which S2′ residues are important for SARS-CoV-2 spike activation by these two airway proteases, with TMPRSS13 exhibiting higher preference for K/R rich motifs than TMPRSS2. This preemptive insight can help to estimate the impact of S2′ motif changes as they may appear in new SARS-CoV-2 variants.

3.
PLoS Pathog ; 17(4): e1009500, 2021 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1197396

ABSTRACT

The high transmissibility of SARS-CoV-2 is related to abundant replication in the upper airways, which is not observed for the other highly pathogenic coronaviruses SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV. We here reveal features of the coronavirus spike (S) protein, which optimize the virus towards the human respiratory tract. First, the S proteins exhibit an intrinsic temperature preference, corresponding with the temperature of the upper or lower airways. Pseudoviruses bearing the SARS-CoV-2 spike (SARS-2-S) were more infectious when produced at 33°C instead of 37°C, a property shared with the S protein of HCoV-229E, a common cold coronavirus. In contrast, the S proteins of SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV favored 37°C, in accordance with virus preference for the lower airways. Next, SARS-2-S-driven entry was efficiently activated by not only TMPRSS2, but also the TMPRSS13 protease, thus broadening the cell tropism of SARS-CoV-2. Both proteases proved relevant in the context of authentic virus replication. TMPRSS13 appeared an effective spike activator for the virulent coronaviruses but not the low pathogenic HCoV-229E virus. Activation of SARS-2-S by these surface proteases requires processing of the S1/S2 cleavage loop, in which both the furin recognition motif and extended loop length proved critical. Conversely, entry of loop deletion mutants is significantly increased in cathepsin-rich cells. Finally, we demonstrate that the D614G mutation increases SARS-CoV-2 stability, particularly at 37°C, and, enhances its use of the cathepsin L pathway. This indicates a link between S protein stability and usage of this alternative route for virus entry. Since these spike properties may promote virus spread, they potentially explain why the spike-G614 variant has replaced the early D614 variant to become globally predominant. Collectively, our findings reveal adaptive mechanisms whereby the coronavirus spike protein is adjusted to match the temperature and protease conditions of the airways, to enhance virus transmission and pathology.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/metabolism , Respiratory System/metabolism , Respiratory System/virology , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , COVID-19/transmission , Coronavirus 229E, Human/metabolism , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Membrane Proteins/metabolism , Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus/metabolism , Peptide Hydrolases/metabolism , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Temperature , Virus Internalization , Virus Replication/physiology
4.
J Med Chem ; 64(9): 5632-5644, 2021 05 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1193564

ABSTRACT

To develop antiviral therapeutics against human coronavirus (HCoV) infections, suitable coronavirus drug targets and corresponding lead molecules must be urgently identified. Here, we describe the discovery of a class of HCoV inhibitors acting on nsp15, a hexameric protein component of the viral replication-transcription complexes, endowed with immune evasion-associated endoribonuclease activity. Structure-activity relationship exploration of these 1,2,3-triazolo-fused betulonic acid derivatives yielded lead molecule 5h as a strong inhibitor (antiviral EC50: 0.6 µM) of HCoV-229E replication. An nsp15 endoribonuclease active site mutant virus was markedly less sensitive to 5h, and selected resistance to the compound mapped to mutations in the N-terminal part of HCoV-229E nsp15, at an interface between two nsp15 monomers. The biological findings were substantiated by the nsp15 binding mode for 5h, predicted by docking. Hence, besides delivering a distinct class of inhibitors, our study revealed a druggable pocket in the nsp15 hexamer with relevance for anti-coronavirus drug development.


Subject(s)
Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Coronavirus 229E, Human/drug effects , Coronavirus 229E, Human/enzymology , Endoribonucleases/antagonists & inhibitors , Enzyme Inhibitors/pharmacology , Oleanolic Acid/analogs & derivatives , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/antagonists & inhibitors , Virus Replication/drug effects , Antiviral Agents/chemical synthesis , Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Cell Line , Dose-Response Relationship, Drug , Endoribonucleases/metabolism , Enzyme Inhibitors/chemical synthesis , Enzyme Inhibitors/chemistry , Humans , Microbial Sensitivity Tests , Models, Molecular , Oleanolic Acid/chemical synthesis , Oleanolic Acid/chemistry , Oleanolic Acid/pharmacology , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/metabolism
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