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Characterization and structural basis of a lethal mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2

By Shihui Sun, Hongjing Gu, Lei Cao, Qi Chen, Guan Yang, Rui-Ting Li, Hang Fan, Qing Ye, Yong-Qiang Deng, Xiaopeng Song, Yini Qi, Min Li, Jun Lan, Rui Feng, Lei Wang, Yifei Zhang, Chao Zhou, Lingna Zhao, Yuehong Chen, Meng Shen, Yujun Cui, Xiao Yang, Xinquan Wang, Hui Wang, Xiangxi Wang, Chengfeng Qin

Posted 11 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.10.377333

The ongoing SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has brought an urgent need for animal models to study the pathogenicity of the virus. Herein, we generated and characterized a novel mouse-adapted SARS-CoV-2 strain named MASCp36 that causes acute respiratory symptoms and mortality in standard laboratory mice. Particularly, this model exhibits age and gender related skewed distribution of mortality akin to severe COVID-19, and the 50% lethal dose (LD50) of MASCp36 was ~100 PFU in aged, male BALB/c mice. Deep sequencing identified three amino acid mutations, N501Y, Q493H, and K417N, subsequently emerged at the receptor binding domain (RBD) of MASCp36, which significantly enhanced the binding affinity to its endogenous receptor, mouse ACE2 (mACE2). Cryo-electron microscopy (cryo-EM) analysis of mACE2 in complex with the RBD of MASCp36 at 3.7-angstrom resolution elucidates molecular basis for the receptor-binding switch driven by amino acid substitutions. Our study not only provides a robust platform for studying the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 and rapid evaluation of coutermeasures against SARS-CoV-2, but also unveils the molecular mechanism for the rapid adaption and evolution of SARS-CoV-2 in mice. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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