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Coagulation factors directly cleave SARS-CoV-2 spike and enhance viral entry

By Edward R Kastenhuber, Javier A. Jaimes, Jared L. Johnson, Marisa Mercadante, Frauke Muecksch, Yiska Weisblum, Yaron Bram, Robert E Schwartz, Gary R Whittaker, Lewis C. Cantley

Posted 01 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.03.31.437960

Coagulopathy is a significant aspect of morbidity in COVID-19 patients. The clotting cascade is propagated by a series of proteases, including factor Xa and thrombin. While certain host proteases, including TMPRSS2 and furin, are known to be important for cleavage activation of SARS-CoV-2 spike to promote viral entry in the respiratory tract, other proteases may also contribute. Using biochemical and cell-based assays, we demonstrate that factor Xa and thrombin can also directly cleave SARS-CoV-2 spike, enhancing viral entry. A drugrepurposing screen identified a subset of protease inhibitors that promiscuously inhibited spike cleavage by both transmembrane serine proteases as well as coagulation factors. The mechanism of the protease inhibitors nafamostat and camostat may extend beyond inhibition of TMPRSS2 to coagulation-induced spike cleavage. Anticoagulation is critical in the management of COVID-19, and early intervention could provide collateral benefit by suppressing SARS-CoV-2 viral entry. We propose a model of positive feedback whereby infection-induced hypercoagulation exacerbates SARS-CoV-2 infectivity.

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