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Membrane lectins enhance SARS-CoV-2 infection and influence the neutralizing activity of different classes of antibodies

By Florian A Lempp, Leah Soriaga, Martin Montiel-Ruiz, Fabio Benigni, Julia Noack, Young-Jun Park, Siro Bianchi, Alexandra C Walls, John E Bowen, Jiayi Zhou, Hanna Kaiser, Maria Agostini, Marcel Meury, Exequiel Dellota, Stefano Jaconi, Elisabetta Cameroni, Herbert W Virgin, Antonio Lanzavecchia, David Veesler, Lisa Purcell, Amalio Telenti, Davide Corti

Posted 04 Apr 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.04.03.438258

Investigating the mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 cellular infection is key to better understand COVID-19 immunity and pathogenesis. Infection, which involves both cell attachment and membrane fusion, relies on the ACE2 receptor that is paradoxically found at low levels in the respiratory tract, suggesting that additional mechanisms facilitating infection may exist. Here we show that C-type lectin receptors, DC-SIGN, L-SIGN and the sialic acid-binding Ig-like lectin 1 (SIGLEC1) function as auxiliary receptors by enhancing ACE2-mediated infection and modulating the neutralizing activity of different classes of spike-specific antibodies. Antibodies to the N-terminal domain (NTD) or to the conserved proteoglycan site at the base of the Receptor Binding Domain (RBD), while poorly neutralizing infection of ACE2 over-expressing cells, effectively block lectin-facilitated infection. Conversely, antibodies to the Receptor Binding Motif (RBM), while potently neutralizing infection of ACE2 over-expressing cells, poorly neutralize infection of cells expressing DC-SIGN or L-SIGN and trigger fusogenic rearrangement of the spike promoting cell-to-cell fusion. Collectively, these findings identify a lectin-dependent pathway that enhances ACE2-dependent infection by SARS-CoV-2 and reveal distinct mechanisms of neutralization by different classes of spike-specific antibodies.

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