Metalloproteinase-Dependent and TMPRSS2-Independent Cell Surface Entry Pathway of SARS-CoV-2 Requires the Furin Cleavage Site and the S2 Domain of Spike Protein

Mizuki Yamamoto, Jin Gohda, Ayako Kobayashi, Keiko Tomita, Youko Hirayama, Naohiko Koshikawa, Motoharu Seiki, Kentaro Semba, Tetsu Akiyama, Yasushi Kawaguchi, Jun Ichiro Inoue*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The ongoing global vaccination program to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection, the causative agent of COVID-19, has had significant success. However, recently, virus variants that can evade the immunity in a host achieved through vaccination have emerged. Consequently, new therapeutic agents that can efficiently prevent infection from these new variants, and hence COVID-19 spread, are urgently required. To achieve this, extensive characterization of virus-host cell interactions to identify effective therapeutic targets is warranted. Here, we report a cell surface entry pathway of SARS-CoV-2 that exists in a cell type-dependent manner and is TMPRSS2 independent but sensitive to various broad-spectrum metalloproteinase inhibitors such as marimastat and prinomastat. Experiments with selective metalloproteinase inhibitors and gene-specific small interfering RNAS (siRNAs) revealed that a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 10 (ADAM10) is partially involved in the metalloproteinase pathway. Consistent with our finding that the pathway is unique to SARS-CoV-2 among highly pathogenic human coronaviruses, both the furin cleavage motif in the S1/S2 boundary and the S2 domain of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein are essential for metalloproteinase-dependent entry. In contrast, the two elements of SARS-CoV-2 independently contributed to TMPRSS2-dependent S2 priming. The metalloproteinase pathway is involved in SARS-CoV-2-induced syncytium formation and cytopathicity, leading us to theorize that it is also involved in the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 and the pathogenesis of COVID-19. Thus, targeting the metalloproteinase pathway in addition to the TMPRSS2 and endosomal pathways could be an effective strategy by which to cure COVID-19 in the future. IMPORTANCE To develop effective therapeutics against COVID-19, it is necessary to elucidate in detail the infection mechanism of the causative agent, SARS-CoV-2. SARS-CoV-2 binds to the cell surface receptor ACE2 via the spike protein, and then the spike protein is cleaved by host proteases to enable entry. Here, we found that the metalloproteinase-mediated pathway is important for SARS-CoV-2 infection in addition to the TMPRSS2-mediated pathway and the endosomal pathway. The metalloproteinase-mediated pathway requires both the prior cleavage of spike into two domains and a specific sequence in the second domain, S2, conditions met by SARS-CoV-2 but lacking in the related human coronavirus SARS-CoV. Besides the contribution of metalloproteinases to SARS-CoV-2 infection, inhibition of metalloproteinases was important in preventing cell death, which may cause organ damage. Our study provides new insights into the complex pathogenesis unique to COVID-19 and relevant to the development of effective therapies.

Original languageEnglish
JournalmBio
Volume13
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2022 Aug

Keywords

  • furin
  • KEYWORDS SARS-CoV-2
  • membrane fusion
  • metalloproteinase
  • virus entry

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology

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