Among the novel mutations distinguishing SARS-CoV-2 from similar coronaviruses is a K403R substitution in the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the viral spike (S) protein within its S1 region. This amino acid substitution occurs near the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)-binding interface and gives rise to a canonical RGD adhesion motif that is often found in native extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, including fibronectin. Here, the ability of recombinant S1-RBD to bind to cell surface integrins and trigger downstream signaling pathways was assessed and compared to RGD-containing, integrin-binding fragments of fibronectin. We determined that S1-RBD supported adhesion of fibronectin-null mouse embryonic fibroblasts as well as primary human small airway epithelial cells, while RBD-coated microparticles attached to epithelial monolayers in a cation-dependent manner. Cell adhesion to S1-RBD was RGD-dependent, and inhibited by blocking antibodies against αv and β3, but not α5 or β1 integrins. Similarly, we observed direct binding of S1-RBD to recombinant human αvβ3 and αvβ6 integrins, but not α5β1 integrins, using surface plasmon resonance. S1-RBD adhesion initiated cell spreading, focal adhesion formation, and actin stress fiber organization to a similar extent as fibronectin. Moreover, S1-RBD stimulated tyrosine phosphorylation of the adhesion mediators FAK, Src, and paxillin, triggered Akt activation, and supported cell proliferation. Thus, the RGD sequence of S1-RBD can function as an αv-selective integrin agonist. This study provides evidence that cell surface αv-containing integrins can respond functionally to spike protein and raises the possibility that S1-mediated dysregulation of ECM dynamics may contribute to the pathogenesis and/or post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Fuente: Journal of Biology Chemistry
Available online 18 January 2023, 102922