Virus-host interactions determine cellular entry and spreading in tissues. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and the earlier SARS-CoV use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a receptor; however, their tissue tropism differs, raising the possibility that additional host factors are involved. The spike protein of SARS-CoV-2 contains a cleavage site for the protease furin that is absent from SARS-CoV (see the Perspective by Kielian). Cantuti-Castelvetri et al. now show that neuropilin-1 (NRP1), which is known to bind furin-cleaved substrates, potentiates SARS-CoV-2 infectivity. NRP1 is abundantly expressed in the respiratory and olfactory epithelium, with highest expression in endothelial and epithelial cells. Daly et al. found that the furin-cleaved S1 fragment of the spike protein binds directly to cell surface NRP1 and blocking this interaction with a small-molecule inhibitor or monoclonal antibodies reduced viral infection in cell culture. Understanding the role of NRP1 in SARS-CoV-2 infection may suggest potential targets for future antiviral therapeutics.
Science, this issue p. 856, p. [Related article:]861; see also p. [Related article:]765
NRP1 serves as a host factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection and may potentially provide a therapeutic target for COVID-19.
The causative agent of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). For many viruses, tissue tropism is determined by the availability of virus receptors and entry cofactors on the surface of host cells. In this study, we found that neuropilin-1 (NRP1), known to bind furin-cleaved substrates, significantly potentiates SARS-CoV-2 infectivity, an effect blocked by a monoclonal blocking antibody against NRP1. A SARS-CoV-2 mutant with an altered furin cleavage site did not depend on NRP1 for infectivity. Pathological analysis of olfactory epithelium obtained from human COVID-19 autopsies revealed that SARS-CoV-2 infected NRP1-positive cells facing the nasal cavity. Our data provide insight into SARS-CoV-2 cell infectivity and define a potential target for antiviral intervention.