Brittany C. V. O’Brien et al.
Virus entry into animal cells is initiated by attachment to target macromolecules located on host cells. The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) trimeric spike glycoprotein targets host angiotensin converting enzyme 2 to gain cellular access. The SARS-CoV-2 glycoprotein contains a neurotoxin-like region that has sequence similarities to the rabies virus and the HIV glycoproteins, as well as to snake neurotoxins, which interact with nicotinic acetylcholine receptor (nAChR) subtypes via this region. Using a peptide of the neurotoxin-like region of SARS-CoV-2 (SARS-CoV-2 glycoprotein peptide [SCoV2P]), we identified that this area moderately inhibits α3β2, α3β4, and α4β2 subtypes, while potentiating and inhibiting α7 nAChRs. These nAChR subtypes are found in target tissues including the nose, lung, central nervous system, and immune cells. Importantly, SCoV2P po- tentiates and inhibits ACh-induced α7 nAChR responses by an allosteric mechanism, with nicotine enhancing these effects. Live-cell confocal microscopy was used to confirm that SCoV2P interacts with α7 nAChRs in transfected neuronal-like N2a and human embryonic kidney 293 cells. The SARS-CoV-2 ectodomain functionally potentiates and inhibits the α7 sub- type with nanomolar potency. Our functional findings identify that the α7 nAChR is a target for the SARS-CoV-2 glycoprotein, providing a new aspect to our understanding of SARS- CoV-2 and host cell interactions, in addition to disease pathogenesis.
Image: geralt @ Pixabay