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Multimerization- and glycosylation-dependent receptor binding of SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins

By Kim M. Bouwman, Ilhan Tomris, Hannah L. Turner, Roosmarijn van der Woude, Gerlof P. Bosman, Barry Rockx, Sander Herfst, Bart L. Haagmans, Andrew B. Ward, Geert-Jan Boons, Robert P. de Vries

Posted 04 Sep 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.09.04.282558

Receptor binding studies using recombinant SARS-CoV proteins have been hampered due to challenges in approaches creating spike protein or domains thereof, that recapitulate receptor binding properties of native viruses. We hypothesized that trimeric RBD proteins would be suitable candidates to study receptor binding properties of SARS-CoV-1 and -2. Here we created monomeric and trimeric fluorescent RBD proteins, derived from adherent HEK293T, as well as in GnTI mutant cells, to analyze the effect of complex vs high mannose glycosylation on receptor binding. The results demonstrate that trimeric fully glycosylated proteins are superior in receptor binding compared to monomeric and immaturely glycosylated variants. Although differences in binding to commonly used cell lines were minimal between the different RBD preparations, substantial differences were observed when respiratory tissues of experimental animals were stained. The RBD trimers demonstrated distinct ACE2 expression profiles in bronchiolar ducts and confirmed the higher binding affinity of SARS-CoV-2 over SARS-CoV-1. Our results show that fully glycosylated trimeric RBD proteins are attractive to analyze receptor binding and explore ACE2 expression profiles in tissues. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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