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Characterization of SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.617.1 (Kappa), B.1.617.2 (Delta) and B.1.618 on cell entry, host range, and sensitivity to convalescent plasma and ACE2 decoy receptor

By Wenlin Ren, Xiaohui Ju, Mingli Gong, Jun Lan, Yanying Yu, Quanxin Long, Yu Zhang, Jin Zhong, Guocai Zhong, Xinquan Wang, Ai-long Huang, Rong Zhang, Qiang Ding

Posted 03 Sep 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.09.03.458829

Recently, highly transmissible SARS-CoV-2 variants B.1.617.1 (Kappa), B.1.617.2 (Delta) and B.1.618 were identified in India with mutations within the spike proteins. The spike protein of Kappa contains four mutations E154K, L452R, E484Q and P681R, and Delta contains L452R, T478K and P681R, while B.1.618 spike harbors mutations {Delta}145-146 and E484K. However, it remains unknown whether these variants have altered in their entry efficiency, host tropism, and sensitivity to neutralizing antibodies as well asNentry inhibitors. In this study, we found that Kappa, Delta or B.1.618 spike uses human ACE2 with no or slightly increased efficiency, while gains a significantly increased binding affinity with mouse, marmoset and koala ACE2 orthologs, which exhibits limited binding with WT spike. Furthermore, the P618R mutation leads to enhanced spike cleavage, which could facilitate viral entry. In addition, Kappa, Delta and B.1.618 exhibits a reduced sensitivity to neutralization by convalescent sera owning to the mutation of E484Q, T478K, {Delta}145-146 or E484K, but remains sensitive to entry inhibitors-ACE2-lg decoy receptor. Collectively, our study revealed that enhanced human and mouse ACE2 receptor engagement, increased spike cleavage and reduced sensitivity to neutralization antibodies of Kappa, Delta and B.1.618 may contribute to the rapid spread of these variants and expanded host range. Furthermore, our result also highlighted that ACE2-lg could be developed as broad-spectrum antiviral strategy against SARS-CoV-2 variants.

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