Proteolytic Cleavage of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein and the Role of the Novel S1/S2 Site
11 Pages Posted: 5 May 2020 Publication Status: Review CompleteMore...
Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) has rapidly spread from an initial outbreak in Wuhan, China in December 2019 to the rest of the world within a few months. On March 11th 2020, the rapidly evolving COVID-19 situation was characterized as a pandemic by the WHO. Much attention has been drawn to the origin of SARS-CoV-2, a virus which is related to the lineage B betacoronavirus SARS-CoV and SARS-related coronaviruses found in bat species. The closest known relative to SARS-CoV-2 is a bat coronavirus named RaTG13 (BatCoV-RaTG13). Early characterizations of the SARS-CoV-2 genome revealed the existence of a distinct 4 amino acid insert (underlined, SPRRAR↓S), found within the spike (S) protein, at a position termed the S1/S2 site located at the interface between the S1 receptor binding subunit and the S2 fusion subunit. Notably, this S1/S2 insert appears to be distinguishing feature among SARS-related sequences and introduces a potential cleavage site for the protease furin. Here, we investigate the potential role of this novel S1/S2 cleavage site and present direct biochemical evidence for proteolytic processing by a variety of proteases, including furin, trypsin-like proteases and cathepsins. We discuss these findings in the broader context of the origin of SARS-CoV-2, viral stability and transmission.
Funding: Work in the author’s laboratory is supported by the National Institutes of Health (research grant R01AI35270).
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