Irreversible Inactivation of SARS-CoV-2 by Lectin Engagement with Two Glycan Clusters on the Spike Protein

27 February 2023, Version 1


Host cell infection by SARS-CoV-2, similar to that by HIV-1, is driven by a conformationally metastable and highly glycosylated surface entry protein complex, and infection by these viruses has been shown to be inhibited by the mannose-specific lectins Cyanovirin-N (CV-N) and Griffithsin (GRFT). We discovered in this study that CV-N and His6-tagged GRFT not only inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection but also lead to irreversibly inactivated pseudovirus particles. The irreversibility effect was revealed by the observation that pseudoviruses first treated with either CV-N or GRFT and then washed to remove all soluble lectin did not recover infectivity. Infection inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus mutants with single-site glycan mutations in Spike suggested that two glycan clusters in S1 are important for both CV-N and GRFT inhibition, one cluster associated with the RBD (receptor binding domain) and the second with the S1/S2 cleavage site. We observed lectin antiviral effects with several SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus variants, including the recently emerged omicron, as well as a fully infectious coronavirus, therein reflecting the breadth of lectin antiviral function and the potential for pan-coronavirus inactivation. Mechanistically, observations made in this work indicate that multivalent lectin interaction with S1 glycans is likely a driver of the lectin infection inhibition and irreversible inactivation effect and suggest the possibility that lectin inactivation is caused by an irreversible conformational effect on Spike. Overall, lectins' irreversible inactivation of SARS-CoV-2, taken with their breadth of function, reflects the therapeutic potential of multivalent lectins targeting the vulnerable metastable Spike before host cell encounter.


Irreversible Inactivation
Virus Inhibition
Pseudovirus Mutagenesis
Glycan Mapping
Surface Plasmon Resonance

Supplementary materials

Supporting Information
File containing Supplemental Figures S1-S13.


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