Variation of Proteolytic Cleavage Sites towards the N-Terminal End of the S2 Subunit of the Novel SARS-CoV-2 Omicron Sublineage BA.2.12.1

Nadine Anna Schilling, Hubert Kalbacher, Timo Burster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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.

Original languageEnglish
JournalMolecules
Volume27
Issue number18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Sept 8 2022

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