Novel ACE2-Independent Carbohydrate-Binding of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein to Host Lectins and Lung Microbiota

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The immediate call for translational research in the field of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, needs new and unexplored angles to support and contribute to this important worldwide health problem. The aim of this study is to better understand the pathogenic mechanisms underlying COVID-19, deciphering the carbohydrate-mediated interactions of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. We studied the carbohydrate-binding receptors that could be important for viral entry and for immune-modulatory responses, and we studied the interactions of the spike protein with the host lung microbiota. Exploring solid-phase immunoassays, we evaluated the interactions between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a library of 12 different human carbohydrate-binding proteins (C-type lectins and Siglecs) involved in binding, triggering and modulation of innate and adaptive immune-responses. We revealed a specific binding of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the receptors DC-SIGN, MGL, Siglec-9 and Siglec-10 that are all expressed on myeloid immune cells. In addition, because the lung microbiota can promote or modulate viral infection, we studied the interactions between the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and a library of Streptococcus pneumoniae capsular polysaccharides, as well as other bacterial glyco-conjugates. We show specific binding of the spike protein to different S. pneumoniae capsular polysaccharides (serotypes 19F and 23F but not to serotype 14). Moreover we demonstrated a specific binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein to the lipopolysaccharide from the opportunistic human pathogen Pseudomonas aeruginosa, one of the leading cause of acute nosocomial infections and pneumonia. Interestingly, we identified rhamnosylated epitopes as one of the discriminating structures in lung microbiota to bind SARS-CoV-2 spike protein. In conclusion, we revealed novel ACE2-independent carbohydrate-mediated interactions with immune modulating lectins expressed on myeloid cells, as well as host lung microbiota glyco-conjugates. Our results identified new molecular pathways using host lectins and signalling, that may contribute to viral infection and subsequent immune exacerbation. Moreover we identified specific rhamnosylated epitopes in lung microbiota to bind SARS-CoV-2, providing a hypothetical link between the presence of specific lung microbiota and SARS-CoV-2 infection and severity.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 14 May 2020

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