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CAT, AGTR2, L-SIGN and DC-SIGN are potential receptors for the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into human cells

By Dongjie Guo, Ruifang Guo, Zhaoyang Li, Yuyang Zhang, Wei Zheng, Xiaoqiang Huang, Tursunjan Aziz, Yang Zhang, Lijun Liu

Posted 07 Jul 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.07.07.451411

Since December 2019, the COVID-19 caused by SARS-CoV-2 has been widely spread all over the world. It is reported that SARS-CoV-2 infection affects a series of human tissues, including lung, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, etc. ACE2 has been identified as the primary receptor of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein. The relatively low expression level of this known receptor in the lungs, which is the predominantly infected organ in COVID-19, indicates that there may be some other co-receptors or alternative receptors of SARS-CoV-2 to work in coordination with ACE2. Here, we identified twenty-one candidate receptors of SARS-CoV-2, including ACE2-interactor proteins and SARS-CoV receptors. Then we investigated the protein expression levels of these twenty-one candidate receptors in different human tissues and found that five of which CAT, MME, L-SIGN, DC-SIGN, and AGTR2 were specifically expressed in SARS-CoV-2 affected tissues. Next, we performed molecular simulations of the above five candidate receptors with SARS-CoV-2 S protein, and found that the binding affinities of CAT, AGTR2, L-SIGN and DC-SIGN to S protein were even higher than ACE2. Interestingly, we also observed that CAT and AGTR2 bound to S protein in different regions with ACE2 conformationally, suggesting that these two proteins are likely capable of the co-receptors of ACE2. Conclusively, we considered that CAT, AGTR2, L-SIGN and DC-SIGN were the potential receptors of SARS-CoV-2. Moreover, AGTR2 and DC-SIGN tend to be highly expressed in the lungs of smokers, which is consistent with clinical phenomena of COVID-19, and further confirmed our conclusion. Besides, we also predicted the binding hot spots for these putative protein-protein interactions, which would help develop drugs against SARS-CoV-2.

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