US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — Chinese scientists have found that the new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus can penetrate into human cells not only through ACE2 protein receptors, as previously thought, but also in another way – through the protein outgrowth of the CD147 molecule.
This is an important result that will help create a more effective and safer vaccine. The research results are published in the bioRxiv preprint library.
It was believed that the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease penetrates human cells using the ACE2 protein, so the main strategy in developing a vaccine against the new coronavirus was to create ACE2 inhibitors or form an immune response to this protein.
But ACE2 plays an important role in the body, being present in the cells of the lungs, heart, kidneys and reproductive system, so an attempt to cope with the virus through this protein can adversely affect the work of these organs.
Now, Chinese biologists from the Fourth Military Medical University in Xi’an and the Institute of Biotechnology in Beijing have discovered another way for SARS-CoV-2 to enter human cells, which opens up additional opportunities for scientists to fight against coronavirus.
“We well know that the virus uses the ACE2 receptor to penetrate the body. We have isolated another receptor whose molecules are attacked by the virus. This expands the possible arsenal of means to suppress infection,” the authors write in the article.
Researchers have noticed that the SARS-COV-2 virus binds to CD147 molecules – receptors on the surface of cells that use several other viral infections and plasmodia of malaria to penetrate.
Protein CD147 (differentiation cluster 147), also known as basigin (BSG) or an extracellular matrix metalloproteinase (EMMPRIN) inducer, refers to the superfamily of immunoglobulins present in human blood.
Coronavirus binding to CD147 occurs through the so-called spike proteins – spike outgrowths on the surface of the virus. Previously, this pathway has been proven for another SARS-CoV coronavirus, the causative agent of the acute respiratory syndrome SARS, also known as SARS.
Scientists treated the cell culture in an in vitro tube with antibodies contained in the substance mepolizumab, which block the work of CD147, and attempted to infect these cells with SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
Even a small concentration of antibodies was enough to completely stop the spread of the virus in the cells. Studies using immunoelectron microscopy confirmed at the molecular level the fusion of the envelope of coronavirus and CD147.
The results suggest that existing drugs to combat malaria and SARS are likely to be effective against the new coronavirus.
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