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1.
Int J Mol Sci ; 23(20)2022 Oct 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2082255

ABSTRACT

The SARS-CoV-2 virus can utilize host cell proteases to facilitate cell entry, whereby the Spike (S) protein is cleaved at two specific sites to enable membrane fusion. Furin, transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), and cathepsin L (CatL) are the major proteases implicated, and are thus targets for anti-viral therapy. The human serpin (serine protease inhibitor) alpha-1 antitrypsin (A1AT) shows inhibitory activity for TMPRSS2, and has previously been found to suppress cell infection with SARS-CoV-2. Here, we have generated modified serpin inhibitors with increased specificity for these cellular proteases. Using SerpinB3 (SCCA-1), a cross-class inhibitor of CatL, as a scaffold, we have designed and produced reactive centre loop (RCL) variants to more specifically target both furin and TMPRSS2. Two further variants were generated by substituting the RCL P7-P1 with the spike protein S1/S2 cleavage site from either SARS-CoV-2 alpha or delta (P681R) sequences. Altered inhibitory specificity of purified recombinant proteins was verified in protease assays, with attenuated CatL inhibition and gain of furin or TMPRSS2 inhibition, as predicted, and modified serpins were shown to block S protein cleavage in vitro. Furthermore, the serpin variants were able to inhibit S-pseudoparticle entry into A549-ACE2-TMPRSS2 cells and suppress SARS-CoV-2 replication in Vero E6 cells expressing TMPRSS2. The construct designed to inhibit TMPRSS2 (B3-TMP) was most potent. It was more effective than A1AT for TMPRSS2 enzyme inhibition (with an eighteen-fold improvement in the second order inhibition rate constant) and for blocking SARS-CoV-2 viral replication. These findings advance the potential for serpin RCL mutagenesis to generate new inhibitors, and may lead to novel anti-viral biological molecules.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Serpins , Humans , SARS-CoV-2 , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Serpins/genetics , Serpins/pharmacology , Cathepsin L/metabolism , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Virus Internalization , COVID-19/drug therapy , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Mutagenesis , Recombinant Proteins , Serine , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics
2.
Nat Commun ; 13(1): 6100, 2022 Oct 15.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2077054

ABSTRACT

In cultured cells, SARS-CoV-2 infects cells via multiple pathways using different host proteases. Recent studies have shown that the furin and TMPRSS2 (furin/TMPRSS2)-dependent pathway plays a minor role in infection of the Omicron variant. Here, we confirm that Omicron uses the furin/TMPRSS2-dependent pathway inefficiently and enters cells mainly using the cathepsin-dependent endocytosis pathway in TMPRSS2-expressing VeroE6/TMPRSS2 and Calu-3 cells. This is the case despite efficient cleavage of the spike protein of Omicron. However, in the airways of TMPRSS2-knockout mice, Omicron infection is significantly reduced. We furthermore show that propagation of the mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 QHmusX strain and human clinical isolates of Beta and Gamma is reduced in TMPRSS2-knockout mice. Therefore, the Omicron variant isn't an exception in using TMPRSS2 in vivo, and analysis with TMPRSS2-knockout mice is important when evaluating SARS-CoV-2 variants. In conclusion, this study shows that TMPRSS2 is critically important for SARS-CoV-2 infection of murine airways, including the Omicron variant.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Humans , Mice , Cathepsins , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Mice, Knockout , Peptide Hydrolases , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization
3.
Transl Neurodegener ; 11(1): 39, 2022 08 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2038939

ABSTRACT

Furin is an important mammalian proprotein convertase that catalyzes the proteolytic maturation of a variety of prohormones and proproteins in the secretory pathway. In the brain, the substrates of furin include the proproteins of growth factors, receptors and enzymes. Emerging evidence, such as reduced FURIN mRNA expression in the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients or schizophrenia patients, has implicated a crucial role of furin in the pathophysiology of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases. Currently, compared to cancer and infectious diseases, the aberrant expression of furin and its pharmaceutical potentials in neurological diseases remain poorly understood. In this article, we provide an overview on the physiological roles of furin and its substrates in the brain, summarize the deregulation of furin expression and its effects in neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric disorders, and discuss the implications and current approaches that target furin for therapeutic interventions. This review may expedite future studies to clarify the molecular mechanisms of furin deregulation and involvement in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and neuropsychiatric diseases, and to develop new diagnosis and treatment strategies for these diseases.


Subject(s)
Furin , Neurodegenerative Diseases , Animals , Furin/genetics , Furin/physiology , Humans , Proprotein Convertases/genetics
4.
Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A ; 119(38): e2209514119, 2022 09 20.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2017036

ABSTRACT

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) cell entry starts with membrane attachment and ends with spike (S) protein-catalyzed membrane fusion depending on two cleavage steps, namely, one usually by furin in producing cells and the second by TMPRSS2 on target cells. Endosomal cathepsins can carry out both. Using real-time three-dimensional single-virion tracking, we show that fusion and genome penetration require virion exposure to an acidic milieu of pH 6.2 to 6.8, even when furin and TMPRSS2 cleavages have occurred. We detect the sequential steps of S1-fragment dissociation, fusion, and content release from the cell surface in TMPRRS2-overexpressing cells only when exposed to acidic pH. We define a key role of an acidic environment for successful infection, found in endosomal compartments and at the surface of TMPRSS2-expressing cells in the acidic milieu of the nasal cavity.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Nasal Cavity , SARS-CoV-2 , Serine Endopeptidases , Virus Internalization , COVID-19/virology , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Hydrogen-Ion Concentration , Nasal Cavity/chemistry , Nasal Cavity/virology , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
5.
Molecules ; 27(18)2022 Sep 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2010215

ABSTRACT

The prevalence of novel SARS-CoV-2 variants is also accompanied by an increased turnover rate and additional cleavage sites at the positions necessary for priming the Spike (S) protein. Of these priming sites, the proteolytically sensitive polybasic sequence of the activation loop at the S1/S2 interface and the S2' location within the S2 subunit of the S protein are cleaved by furin and TMPRSS2, which are important for the infection of the target cell. Neutrophils, migrating to the site of infection, secrete serine proteases to fight against pathogens. The serine proteases encompass neutrophil elastase (NE), proteinase 3 (PR3), and cathepsin G (CatG), which can hydrolyze the peptide bond adjacent to the S1/S2 interface. SARS-CoV-2 might take the opportunity to hijack proteases from an immune response to support viral entry to the cell. The region near S704L within the S2 subunit, a novel amino acid substitution of SARS-CoV-2 Omicron sublineage BA.2.12.1, is located close to the S1/S2 interface. We found that NE, PR3, and CatG digested the peptide within this region; however, the S704L amino acid substitution altered cleavage sites for PR3. In conclusion, such an amino acid substitution modifies S2 antigen processing and might further impact the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) binding and T cell activation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Cathepsin G , Furin/genetics , Humans , Leukocyte Elastase , Myeloblastin , Peptide Hydrolases/metabolism , Peptides , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
6.
Int J Mol Sci ; 23(11)2022 May 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1953485

ABSTRACT

The novel SARS-CoV-2 Omicron variant B.1.1.529, which emerged in late 2021, is currently active worldwide, replacing other variants, including the Delta variant, due to an enormously increased infectivity. Multiple substitutions and deletions in the N-terminal domain (NTD) and the receptor binding domain (RBD) in the spike protein collaborate with the observed increased infectivity and evasion from therapeutic monoclonal antibodies and vaccine-induced neutralizing antibodies after primary/secondary immunization. In contrast, although three mutations near the S1/S2 furin cleavage site were predicted to favor cleavage, observed cleavage efficacy is substantially lower than in the Delta variant and also lower compared to the wild-type virus correlating with significantly lower TMPRSS2-dependent replication in the lungs, and lower cellular syncytium formation. In contrast, the Omicron variant shows high TMPRSS2-independent replication in the upper airway organs, but lower pathogenicity in animal studies and clinics. Based on recent data, we present here a hypothesis proposing that the changed charge distribution in the Omicron's spike protein could lead to lower activation of Toll-like receptors (TLRs) in innate immune cells, resulting in lower NF-κB activation, furin expression, and viral replication in the lungs, and lower immune hyper-activation.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Animals , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , NF-kappa B , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Toll-Like Receptors , Virulence
7.
Commun Biol ; 5(1): 491, 2022 05 30.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1947506

ABSTRACT

The furin cleavage site (FCS) in SARS-CoV-2 is unique within the Severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus (SrC) species. We re-assessed diverse SrC from European horseshoe bats and analyzed the spike-encoding genomic region harboring the FCS in SARS-CoV-2. We reveal molecular features in SrC such as purine richness and RNA secondary structures that resemble those required for FCS acquisition in avian influenza viruses. We discuss the potential acquisition of FCS through molecular mechanisms such as nucleotide substitution, insertion, or recombination, and show that a single nucleotide exchange in two European bat-associated SrC may suffice to enable furin cleavage. Furthermore, we show that FCS occurrence is variable in bat- and rodent-borne counterparts of human coronaviruses. Our results suggest that furin cleavage sites can be acquired in SrC via conserved molecular mechanisms known in other reservoir-bound RNA viruses and thus support a natural origin of SARS-CoV-2.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Chiroptera , Animals , COVID-19/genetics , Chiroptera/genetics , Furin/genetics , Genome, Viral , Genomics , Nucleotides , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
8.
Appl Biochem Biotechnol ; 194(10): 4511-4529, 2022 Oct.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1942968

ABSTRACT

Furin, a pro-protein convertase, plays a significant role as a biological scissor in bacterial, viral, and even mammalian substrates which in turn decides the fate of many viral and bacterial infections along with the numerous ailments caused by cancer, diabetes, inflammations, and neurological disorders. In the wake of the current pandemic caused by the virus SARS-CoV-2, furin has become the center of attraction for researchers as the spike protein contains a polybasic furin cleavage site. In the present work, we have searched for novel inhibitors against this interesting human target from FDA-approved antiviral. To enhance the selection of new inhibitors, we employed Kohonen's artificial neural network-based self-organizing maps for ligand-based virtual screening. Promising results were obtained which can help in drug repurposing and network pharmacology studies can address the errors generated due to promiscuity/polypharmacology. We found 15 existing FDA antiviral drugs having the potential to inhibit furin. Among these, six compounds have targets on important human proteins (LDLR, FCGR1A, PCK1, TLR7, DNA, and PNP). The role of these 15 drugs inhibiting furin can be established by studying further on patients infected with number of viruses including SARS-CoV-2. Here we propose two promising candidate FDA drugs GS-441524 and Grazoprevir (MK-5172) for repurposing as inhibitors of furin. The best results were observed with GS-441524.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Adenosine/analogs & derivatives , Antiviral Agents/chemistry , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/drug therapy , Furin/genetics , Humans , Ligands , Neural Networks, Computer , Polypharmacology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Toll-Like Receptor 7
9.
J Mol Model ; 28(8): 224, 2022 Jul 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1941795

ABSTRACT

Viral-cell entry and cell-cell viral spreading processes of SARS-CoV-2 are subjected to fast evolutionary optimization because of its worldwide spreading, requiring the need for new drug developments. However, this task is still challenging, because a detailed understanding of the underlying molecular processes, mediated by the key cellular proteases TMPRSS2 and furin, is still lacking. Here, we show by large-scale atomistic calculations that binding of the ACE2 cell receptor at one of the heteromers of the SARS-CoV-2 spike leads to a release of its furin cleavage site (S1/S2), enabling an enhanced furin binding, and that this latter process promotes the binding of TMPRSS2 through the release of the TMPRSS2 cleavage site (S2') out of the ACE2-binding heteromer. Moreover, we find that, after proteolytic cleavage, improved furin binding causes that parts of the S2 subunit dissociate from the complex, suggesting that furin promotes the fusion of the S2 subunit with the cell membrane before transfer of the viral RNA. Here we show by computational means that binding of the ACE2-cell receptor at one of the heteromers of the SARS-CoV-2 spike leads to an enhanced binding of the protease furin, promoting the binding of the protease TMPRSS2. Moreover, we show that, after proteolytic cleavage, improved furin binding causes that parts of the heteromer dissociate from the spike.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Furin/chemistry , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Peptide Hydrolases/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
10.
Microbiol Spectr ; 10(4): e0151422, 2022 08 31.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1909617

ABSTRACT

Based on its predicted ability to affect transmissibility and pathogenesis, surveillance studies have highlighted the role of a specific mutation (P681R) in the S1/S2 furin cleavage site of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. Here we analyzed A.23.1, first identified in Uganda, as a P681R-containing virus several months prior to the emergence of B.1.617.2 (Delta variant). We performed assays using peptides mimicking the S1/S2 from A.23.1 and B.1.617 and observed significantly increased cleavability with furin compared to both an original B lineage (Wuhan-Hu1) and B.1.1.7 (Alpha variant). We also performed cell-cell fusion and functional infectivity assays using pseudotyped particles and observed an increase in activity for A.23.1 compared to an original B lineage spike. However, these changes in activity were not reproduced in the B lineage spike bearing only the P681R substitution. Our findings suggest that while A.23.1 has increased furin-mediated cleavage linked to the P681R substitution, this substitution needs to occur on the background of other spike protein changes to enable its functional consequences. IMPORTANCE During the course of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, viral variants have emerged that often contain notable mutations in the spike gene. Mutations that encode changes in the spike S1/S2 (furin) activation site have been considered especially impactful. The S1/S2 change from proline to arginine at position 681 (P681R) first emerged in the A.23.1 variant in Uganda, and subsequently occurred in the more widely transmitted Delta variant. We show that the A.23.1 spike is more readily activated by the host cell protease furin, but that this is not reproduced in an original SARS-CoV-2 spike containing the P681R mutation. Changes to the S1/S2 (furin) activation site play a role in SARS-CoV-2 infection and spread, but successful viruses combine these mutations with other less well identified changes, occurring as part of natural selection.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , COVID-19/virology , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Uganda
11.
Viruses ; 14(5)2022 05 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1869808

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2 is a global challenge due to its ability to mutate into variants that spread more rapidly than the wild-type virus. Because the molecular biology of this virus has been studied in such great detail, it represents an archetypal paradigm for research into new antiviral drug therapies. The rapid evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in the human population is driven, in part, by mutations in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike (S-) protein, some of which enable tighter binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE2). More stable RBD-ACE2 association is coupled with accelerated hydrolysis of furin and 3CLpro cleavage sites that augment infection. Non-RBD and non-interfacial mutations assist the S-protein in adopting thermodynamically favorable conformations for stronger binding. The driving forces of key mutations for Alpha, Beta, Gamma, Delta, Kappa, Lambda and Omicron variants, which stabilize the RBD-ACE2 complex, are investigated by free-energy computational approaches, as well as equilibrium and steered molecular dynamic simulations. Considered also are the structural hydropathy traits of the residues in the interface between SARS-CoV-2 RBD and ACE2 protein. Salt bridges and π-π interactions are critical forces that create stronger complexes between the RBD and ACE2. The trend of mutations is the replacement of non-polar hydrophobic interactions with polar hydrophilic interactions, which enhance binding of RBD with ACE2. However, this is not always the case, as conformational landscapes also contribute to a stronger binding. Arginine, the most polar and hydrophilic among the natural amino acids, is the most aggressive mutant amino acid for stronger binding. Arginine blockers, such as traditional sartans that bear anionic tetrazoles and carboxylates, may be ideal candidate drugs for retarding viral infection by weakening S-protein RBD binding to ACE2 and discouraging hydrolysis of cleavage sites. Based on our computational results it is suggested that a new generation of "supersartans", called "bisartans", bearing two anionic biphenyl-tetrazole pharmacophores, are superior to carboxylates in terms of their interactions with viral targets, suggesting their potential as drugs in the treatment of COVID-19. In Brief: This in silico study reviews our understanding of molecular driving forces that trigger mutations in the SARS-CoV-2 virus. It also reports further studies on a new class of "supersartans" referred to herein as "bisartans", bearing two anionic biphenyltetrazole moieties that show potential in models for blocking critical amino acids of mutants, such as arginine, in the Delta variant. Bisartans may also act at other targets essential for viral infection and replication (i.e., ACE2, furin cleavage site and 3CLpro), rendering them potential new drugs for additional experimentation and translation to human clinical trials.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , SARS-CoV-2 , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Arginine/genetics , COVID-19/drug therapy , Furin/genetics , Humans , Membrane Glycoproteins/metabolism , Mutation , Receptors, Virus/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Viral Envelope Proteins/genetics
12.
Surg Infect (Larchmt) ; 23(5): 470-474, 2022 Jun.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1864950

ABSTRACT

Background: The sudden outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has resulted in more than 261 million infections and an estimated 5.1 million deaths. Some vital organs such as the kidneys, heart, intestines, and lungs could be damaged by SARS-CoV-2. Questions remain regarding the effect of SARS-CoV-2 on the mucous membrane of the appendix in children. The aim of this study was to evaluate the knowledge of cytologic processes in appendix tissue in children with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Patients and Methods: Fragments of the appendices of children with confirmed COVID-19 (n = 42) were studied by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to determine the expression of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and genes encoding protein complexes: ACE-2 and Furin. Results: We found traces of coronavirus genetic material in the appendices of children with COVID-19. We also found increased expression of ACE-2 and Furin in the tissue, which indicates favorable conditions for coronavirus infection. Conclusions: Viral load in the appendices of children can be reported based on the results of real-time PCR for SARS-CoV-2 and the expression of ACE-2 and Furin.


Subject(s)
Appendix , COVID-19 , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Appendix/metabolism , Child , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2
13.
Front Immunol ; 13: 872047, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1855361

ABSTRACT

An effective COVID-19 vaccine against broad SARS-CoV-2 variants is still an unmet need. In the study, the vesicular stomatitis virus (VSV)-based vector was used to express the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein to identify better vaccine designs. The replication-competent of the recombinant VSV-spike virus with C-terminal 19 amino acid truncation (SΔ19 Rep) was generated. A single dose of SΔ19 Rep intranasal vaccination is sufficient to induce protective immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection in hamsters. All the clones isolated from the SΔ19 Rep virus contained R682G mutation located at the Furin cleavage site. An additional S813Y mutation close to the TMPRSS2 cleavage site was identified in some clones. The enzymatic processing of S protein was blocked by these mutations. The vaccination of the R682G-S813Y virus produced a high antibody response against S protein and a robust S protein-specific CD8+ T cell response. The vaccinated animals were protected from the lethal SARS-CoV-2 (delta variant) challenge. The S antigen with resistance to enzymatic processes by Furin and TMPRSS2 will provide better immunogenicity for vaccine design.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Furin , SARS-CoV-2 , Serine Endopeptidases , Animals , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Vaccines , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Immunity, Cellular , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Serine Endopeptidases/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology
14.
J Med Virol ; 94(8): 3589-3595, 2022 08.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1844124

ABSTRACT

Furin is a protease that plays a key role in the infection cycle of SARS-CoV-2 by cleaving the viral proteins during the virus particle assembly. In addition, Furin regulates several physiological processes related to cardio-metabolic traits. DNA variants in the FURIN gene are candidates to regulate the risk of developing these traits as well as the susceptibility to severe COVID-19. We genotyped two functional FURIN variants (rs6224/rs4702) in 428 COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit. The association with death (N = 106) and hypertension, diabetes, and hyperlipidaemia was statistically evaluated. The risk of death was associated with age, hypertension, and hypercholesterolemia. The two FURIN alleles linked to higher expression (rs6224 T and rs4702 A) were significantly increased in the death cases (odds ratio= 1.40 and 1.43). Homozygosis for the two high expression genotypes (rs6224 TT and rs4702 AA) and for the T-A haplotype was associated with an increased risk of hypercholesterolemia. In the multiple logistic regression both, hypercholesterolemia and the TT + AA genotype were significantly associated with death. In conclusion, besides its association with hypercholesterolemia, FURIN variants might be independent risk factors for the risk of death among COVID-19 patients.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Hypercholesterolemia , Hypertension , COVID-19/genetics , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
15.
Int J Biol Sci ; 18(6): 2362-2371, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1753909

ABSTRACT

CTSL is expressed by cancerous tissues and encodes a lysosomal cysteine proteinase that regulates cancer progression and SARS-CoV-2 entry. Therefore, it is critical to predict the susceptibility of cancer patients for SARS-CoV-2 and evaluate the correlation between disease outcomes and the expression of CTSL in malignant cancer tissues. In the current study, we analyzed CTSL expression, mutation rate, survival and COVID-19 disease outcomes in cancer and normal tissues, using online databases. We also performed immunohistochemistry (IHC) to test CTSL expression and western blot to monitor its regulation by cordycepin (CD), and N6, N6-dimethyladenosine (m6 2A), respectively. We found that CTSL is conserved across different species, and highly expressed in both normal and cancer tissues from human, as compared to ACE2 or other proteinases/proteases. Additionally, the expression of CTSL protein was the highest in the lung tissue. We show that the mRNA expression of CTSL is 66.4-fold higher in normal lungs and 54.8-fold higher in cancer tissues, as compared to ACE2 mRNA expression in the respective tissues. Compared to other proteases/proteinases/convertases such as TMPRSS2 and FURIN, the expression of CTSL was higher in both normal lungs and lung cancer samples. All these data indicate that CTSL might play an important role in COVID-19 pathogenesis in normal and cancer tissues of the lungs. Additionally, the CTSL-002 isoform containing both the inhibitor_I29 and Peptidase_C1 domains was highly prevalent in all cancers, suggesting its potential role in tumor progression and SARS-CoV-2 entry in multiple types of cancers. Further analysis of the expression of CTSL mutant showed a correlation with FURIN and TMPRSS2, suggesting a potential role of CTSL mutations in modulating SARS-CoV-2 entry in cancers. Moreover, high expression of CTSL significantly correlated with a short overall survival (OS) in lung cancer and glioma. Thus, CTSL might play a major role in the susceptibility of lung cancer and glioma patients to SARS-CoV-2 uptake and COVID-19 severity. Furthermore, CD or m6 2A inhibited CTSL expression in the cancer cell lines A549, MDA-MB-231, and/or PC3 in a dose dependent manner. In conclusion, we show that CTSL is highly expressed in normal tissues and increased in most cancers, and CD or m6 2A could inhibit its expression, suggesting the therapeutic potential of targeting CTSL for cancer and COVID-19 treatment.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Glioma , Lung Neoplasms , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , COVID-19/drug therapy , COVID-19/genetics , Cathepsin L , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , RNA, Messenger , SARS-CoV-2
16.
J Virol ; 96(5): e0218621, 2022 03 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1736028

ABSTRACT

Recent emergence of SARS-CoV-1 variants demonstrates the potential of this virus for targeted evolution, despite its overall genomic stability. Here we show the dynamics and the mechanisms behind the rapid adaptation of SARS-CoV-2 to growth in Vero E6 cells. The selective advantage for growth in Vero E6 cells is due to increased cleavage efficiency by cathepsins at the mutated S1/S2 site. S1/S2 site also constitutes a heparan sulfate (HS) binding motif that influenced virus growth in Vero E6 cells, but HS antagonist did not inhibit virus adaptation in these cells. The entry of Vero E6-adapted virus into human cells is defective because the mutated spike variants are poorly processed by furin or TMPRSS2. Minor subpopulation that lack the furin cleavage motif in the spike protein rapidly become dominant upon passaging through Vero E6 cells, but wild type sequences are maintained at low percentage in the virus swarm and mediate a rapid reverse adaptation if the virus is passaged again on TMPRSS2+ human cells. Our data show that the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 can rapidly adapt itself to available proteases and argue for deep sequence surveillance to identify the emergence of novel variants. IMPORTANCE Recently emerging SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.1.7 (alpha variant), B.1.617.2 (delta variant), and B.1.1.529 (omicron variant) harbor spike mutations and have been linked to increased virus pathogenesis. The emergence of these novel variants highlights coronavirus adaptation and evolution potential, despite the stable consensus genotype of clinical isolates. We show that subdominant variants maintained in the virus population enable the virus to rapidly adapt to selection pressure. Although these adaptations lead to genotype change, the change is not absolute and genomes with original genotype are maintained in the virus swarm. Thus, our results imply that the relative stability of SARS-CoV-2 in numerous independent clinical isolates belies its potential for rapid adaptation to new conditions.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/metabolism , Furin/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Adaptation, Physiological , Animals , COVID-19/genetics , COVID-19/virology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Cytopathogenic Effect, Viral , Furin/genetics , HEK293 Cells , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Humans , Mutation , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Vero Cells , Virus Replication
17.
Microbiol Spectr ; 10(1): e0236421, 2022 02 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1703367

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 causing coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) remains a public health threat worldwide. SARS-CoV-2 enters human lung cells via its spike glycoprotein binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Notably, the cleavage of the spike by the host cell protease furin in virus-producing cells is critical for subsequent spike-driven entry into lung cells. Thus, effective targeted therapies blocking the spike cleavage and activation in viral producing cells may provide an alternate strategy to break the viral transmission cycle and to overcome disease pathology. Here we engineered and described an antibody-based targeted strategy, which directly competes with the furin mediated proteolytic activation of the spike in virus-producing cells. The described approach involves engineering competitive furin substrate residues in the IgG1 Fc-extended flexible linker domain of SARS-CoV-2 spike targeting antibodies. Considering the site of spike furin cleavage and SARS-CoV-2 egress remains uncertain, the experimental strategy pursued here revealed novel mechanistic insights into proteolytic processing of the spike protein, which suggest that processing does not occur in the constitutive secretory pathway. Furthermore, our results show blockade of furin-mediated cleavage of the spike protein for membrane fusion activation and virus host-cell entry function. These findings provide an alternate insight of targeting applicability to SARS-CoV-2 and the future coronaviridae family members, exploiting the host protease system to gain cellular entry and subsequent chain of infections. IMPORTANCE Since its emergence in December 2019, COVID-19 has remained a global economic and health threat. Although RNA and DNA vector-based vaccines induced antibody response and immunological memory have proven highly effective against hospitalization and mortality, their long-term efficacy remains unknown against continuously evolving SARS-CoV-2 variants. As host cell-enriched furin-mediated cleavage of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein is critical for viral entry and chain of the infection cycle, the solution described here of an antibody Fc-conjugated furin competing peptide is significant. In a scenario where spike mutational drifts do not interfere with the Fc-conjugated antibody's epitope, the proposed furin competing strategy confers a broad-spectrum targeting design to impede the production of efficiently transmissible SARS-CoV-2 viral particles. In addition, the proposed approach is plug-and-play against other potentially deadly viruses that exploit secretory pathway independent host protease machinery to gain cellular entry and subsequent transmissions to host cells.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , COVID-19/enzymology , COVID-19/virology , Furin/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/immunology , Amino Acid Sequence , COVID-19/genetics , Furin/genetics , Host-Pathogen Interactions , Humans , Proteolysis , SARS-CoV-2/chemistry , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization
18.
Microbiol Spectr ; 10(1): e0236621, 2022 02 23.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1703078

ABSTRACT

The Amazonas was one of the most heavily affected Brazilian states by the COVID-19 epidemic. Despite a large number of infected people, particularly during the second wave associated with the spread of the Variant of Concern (VOC) Gamma (lineage P.1), SARS-CoV-2 continues to circulate in the Amazonas. To understand how SARS-CoV-2 persisted in a human population with a high immunity barrier, we generated 1,188 SARS-CoV-2 whole-genome sequences from individuals diagnosed in the Amazonas state from 1st January to 6th July 2021, of which 38 were vaccine breakthrough infections. Our study reveals a sharp increase in the relative prevalence of Gamma plus (P.1+) variants, designated Pango Lineages P.1.3 to P.1.6, harboring two types of additional Spike changes: deletions in the N-terminal (NTD) domain (particularly Δ144 or Δ141-144) associated with resistance to anti-NTD neutralizing antibodies or mutations at the S1/S2 junction (N679K or P681H) that probably enhance the binding affinity to the furin cleavage site, as suggested by our molecular dynamics simulations. As lineages P.1.4 (S:N679K) and P.1.6 (S:P681H) expanded (Re > 1) from March to July 2021, the lineage P.1 declined (Re < 1) and the median Ct value of SARS-CoV-2 positive cases in Amazonas significantly decreases. Still, we did not find an increased incidence of P.1+ variants among breakthrough cases of fully vaccinated patients (71%) in comparison to unvaccinated individuals (93%). This evidence supports that the ongoing endemic transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the Amazonas is driven by the spread of new local Gamma/P.1 sublineages that are more transmissible, although not more efficient to evade vaccine-elicited immunity than the parental VOC. Finally, as SARS-CoV-2 continues to spread in human populations with a declining density of susceptible hosts, the risk of selecting more infectious variants or antibody evasion mutations is expected to increase. IMPORTANCE The continuous evolution of SARS-CoV-2 is an expected phenomenon that will continue to happen due to the high number of cases worldwide. The present study analyzed how a Variant of Concern (VOC) could still circulate in a population hardly affected by two COVID-19 waves and with vaccination in progress. Our results showed that the answer behind that was a new generation of Gamma-like viruses, which emerged locally carrying mutations that made it more transmissible and more capable of spreading, partially evading prior immunity triggered by natural infections or vaccines. With thousands of new cases daily, the current pandemics scenario suggests that SARS-CoV-2 will continue to evolve and efforts to reduce the number of infected subjects, including global equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines, are mandatory. Thus, until the end of pandemics, the SARS-CoV-2 genomic surveillance will be an essential tool to better understand the drivers of the viral evolutionary process.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/enzymology , Furin/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Amino Acid Motifs , Brazil/epidemiology , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/transmission , COVID-19/virology , COVID-19 Vaccines/administration & dosage , Furin/genetics , Genomics , Humans , Mutation , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
19.
Cells ; 11(3)2022 01 27.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1662647

ABSTRACT

In this contribution, we report on the possibility that cryptococcal protease(s) could activate the SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein. The S protein is documented to have a unique four-amino-acid sequence (underlined, SPRRAR↓S) at the interface between the S1 and S2 sites, that serves as a cleavage site for the human protease, furin. We compared the biochemical efficiency of cryptococcal protease(s) and furin to mediate the proteolytic cleavage of the S1/S2 site in a fluorogenic peptide. We show that cryptococcal protease(s) processes this site in a manner comparable to the efficiency of furin (p > 0.581). We conclude the paper by discussing the impact of these findings in the context of a SARS-CoV-2 disease manifesting while there is an underlying cryptococcal infection.


Subject(s)
Aspartic Acid Proteases/metabolism , Bacterial Proteins/metabolism , Cryptococcus neoformans/enzymology , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Amino Acid Sequence , Aspartic Acid Proteases/genetics , Bacterial Proteins/genetics , Binding Sites , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/prevention & control , COVID-19/virology , Cryptococcus neoformans/genetics , Fluorescent Dyes/chemistry , Furin/genetics , Furin/metabolism , Humans , Pandemics , Peptides/chemistry , Peptides/metabolism , Proteolysis , SARS-CoV-2/physiology
20.
Emerg Microbes Infect ; 11(1): 182-194, 2022 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1550502

ABSTRACT

The ubiquitously-expressed proteolytic enzyme furin is closely related to the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 and therefore represents a key target for antiviral therapy. Based on bioinformatic analysis and pseudovirus tests, we discovered a second functional furin site located in the spike protein. Furin still increased the infectivity of mutated SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus in 293T-ACE2 cells when the canonical polybasic cleavage site (682-686) was deleted. However, K814A mutation eliminated the enhancing effect of furin on virus infection. Furin inhibitor prevented infection by 682-686-deleted SARS-CoV-2 in 293T-ACE2-furin cells, but not the K814A mutant. K814A mutation did not affect the activity of TMPRSS2 and cathepsin L but did impact the cleavage of S2 into S2' and cell-cell fusion. Additionally, we showed that this functional furin site exists in RaTG13 from bat and PCoV-GD/GX from pangolin. Therefore, we discovered a new functional furin site that is pivotal in promoting SARS-CoV-2 infection.


Subject(s)
Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Cathepsin L/metabolism , Furin/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Amino Acid Sequence , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , Animals , Cathepsin L/genetics , Cell Fusion , Chiroptera , Furin/genetics , Gene Expression , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Mice , Mice, Transgenic , Mutation , Receptors, Virus/genetics , Receptors, Virus/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/growth & development , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Serine Endopeptidases/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism
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