It is not well understood why severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-CoV-2 spreads much faster than other β-coronaviruses such as SARS-CoV and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS)-CoV. In a previous publication, we predicted the binding of the N-terminal domain (NTD) of SARS-CoV-2 spike to sialic acids (SAs). Here, we experimentally validate this interaction and present simulations that reveal a second possible interaction between SAs and the spike protein via a binding site located in the receptor-binding domain (RBD). The predictions from molecular-dynamics simulations and the previously-published 2D-Zernike binding-site recognition approach were validated through flow-induced dispersion analysis (FIDA)─which reveals the capability of the SARS-CoV-2 spike to bind to SA-containing (glyco)lipid vesicles, and flow-cytometry measurements─which show that spike binding is strongly decreased upon inhibition of SA expression on the membranes of angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2)-expressing HEK cells. Our analyses reveal that the SA binding of the NTD and RBD strongly enhances the infection-inducing ACE2 binding. Altogether, our work provides in silico, in vitro, and cellular evidence that the SARS-CoV-2 virus utilizes a two-receptor (SA and ACE2) strategy. This allows the SARS-CoV-2 spike to use SA moieties on the cell membrane as a binding anchor, which increases the residence time of the virus on the cell surface and aids in the binding of the main receptor, ACE2, via 2D diffusion.
- Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
- Binding Sites
- Protein Binding