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


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.

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
J Med Chem ; 64(9): 5632-5644, 2021 05 13.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1193564


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.

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