Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Journal: Cell


Understanding adaptive immunity to SARS-CoV-2 is important for vaccine development, interpreting coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pathogenesis, and calibration of pandemic control measures. Using HLA class I and II predicted peptide “megapools,” circulating SARS-CoV-2-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells were identified in ∼70% and 100% of COVID-19 convalescent patients, respectively. CD4+ T cell responses to spike, the main target of most vaccine efforts, were robust and correlated with the magnitude of the anti-SARS-CoV-2 IgG and IgA titers. The M, spike, and N proteins each accounted for 11%-27% of the total CD4+ response, with additional responses commonly targeting nsp3, nsp4, ORF3a, and ORF8, among others. For CD8+ T cells, spike and M were recognized, with at least eight SARS-CoV-2 ORFs targeted. Importantly, we detected SARS-CoV-2-reactive CD4+ T cells in ∼40%-60% of unexposed individuals, suggesting cross-reactive T cell recognition between circulating “common cold” coronaviruses and SARS-CoV-2.


A SARS-CoV-2 variant carrying the Spike protein amino acid change D614G has become the most prevalent form in the global pandemic. Dynamic tracking of variant frequencies revealed a recurrent pattern of G614 increase at multiple geographic levels: national, regional, and municipal. The shift occurred even in local epidemics where the original D614 form was well established prior to introduction of the G614 variant. The consistency of this pattern was highly statistically significant, suggesting that the G614 variant may have a fitness advantage. We found that the G614 variant grows to a higher titer as pseudotyped virions. In infected individuals, G614 is associated with lower RT-PCR cycle thresholds, suggestive of higher upper respiratory tract viral loads, but not with increased disease severity. These findings illuminate changes important for a mechanistic understanding of the virus and support continuing surveillance of Spike mutations to aid with development of immunological interventions.


The recent emergence of the novel, pathogenic SARS-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in China and its rapid national and international spread pose a global health emergency. Cell entry of coronaviruses depends on binding of the viral spike (S) proteins to cellular receptors and on S protein priming by host cell proteases. Unravelling which cellular factors are used by SARS-CoV-2 for entry might provide insights into viral transmission and reveal therapeutic targets. Here, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 uses the SARS-CoV receptor ACE2 for entry and the serine protease TMPRSS2 for S protein priming. A TMPRSS2 inhibitor approved for clinical use blocked entry and might constitute a treatment option. Finally, we show that the sera from convalescent SARS patients cross-neutralized SARS-2-S-driven entry. Our results reveal important commonalities between SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV infection and identify a potential target for antiviral intervention.


The emergence of SARS-CoV-2 has resulted in >90,000 infections and >3,000 deaths. Coronavirus spike (S) glycoproteins promote entry into cells and are the main target of antibodies. We show that SARS-CoV-2 S uses ACE2 to enter cells and that the receptor-binding domains of SARS-CoV-2 S and SARS-CoV S bind with similar affinities to human ACE2, correlating with the efficient spread of SARS-CoV-2 among humans. We found that the SARS-CoV-2 S glycoprotein harbors a furin cleavage site at the boundary between the S1/S2 subunits, which is processed during biogenesis and sets this virus apart from SARS-CoV and SARS-related CoVs. We determined cryo-EM structures of the SARS-CoV-2 S ectodomain trimer, providing a blueprint for the design of vaccines and inhibitors of viral entry. Finally, we demonstrate that SARS-CoV S murine polyclonal antibodies potently inhibited SARS-CoV-2 S mediated entry into cells, indicating that cross-neutralizing antibodies targeting conserved S epitopes can be elicited upon vaccination.


Infectious diseases prevalent in humans and animals are caused by pathogens that once emerged from other animal hosts. In addition to these established infections, new infectious diseases periodically emerge. In extreme cases they may cause pandemics such as COVID-19; in other cases, dead-end infections or smaller epidemics result. Established diseases may also re-emerge, for example by extending geographically or by becoming more transmissible or more pathogenic. Disease emergence reflects dynamic balances and imbalances, within complex globally distributed ecosystems comprising humans, animals, pathogens, and the environment. Understanding these variables is a necessary step in controlling future devastating disease emergences.


The mode of acquisition and causes for the variable clinical spectrum of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) remain unknown. We utilized a reverse genetics system to generate a GFP reporter virus to explore severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) pathogenesis and a luciferase reporter virus to demonstrate sera collected from SARS and COVID-19 patients exhibited limited cross-CoV neutralization. High-sensitivity RNA in situ mapping revealed the highest angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression in the nose with decreasing expression throughout the lower respiratory tract, paralleled by a striking gradient of SARS-CoV-2 infection in proximal (high) versus distal (low) pulmonary epithelial cultures. COVID-19 autopsied lung studies identified focal disease and, congruent with culture data, SARS-CoV-2-infected ciliated and type 2 pneumocyte cells in airway and alveolar regions, respectively. These findings highlight the nasal susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 with likely subsequent aspiration-mediated virus seeding to the lung in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis. These reagents provide a foundation for investigations into virus-host interactions in protective immunity, host susceptibility, and virus pathogenesis.


Coronaviruses make use of a large envelope protein called spike (S) to engage host cell receptors and catalyze membrane fusion. Because of the vital role that these S proteins play, they represent a vulnerable target for the development of therapeutics. Here, we describe the isolation of single-domain antibodies (VHHs) from a llama immunized with prefusion-stabilized coronavirus spikes. These VHHs neutralize MERS-CoV or SARS-CoV-1 S pseudotyped viruses, respectively. Crystal structures of these VHHs bound to their respective viral targets reveal two distinct epitopes, but both VHHs interfere with receptor binding. We also show cross-reactivity between the SARS-CoV-1 S-directed VHH and SARS-CoV-2 S and demonstrate that this cross-reactive VHH neutralizes SARS-CoV-2 S pseudotyped viruses as a bivalent human IgG Fc-fusion. These data provide a molecular basis for the neutralization of pathogenic betacoronaviruses by VHHs and suggest that these molecules may serve as useful therapeutics during coronavirus outbreaks.


The COVID-19 pandemic urgently needs therapeutic and prophylactic interventions. Here we report the rapid identification of SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies by high-throughput single-cell RNA and VDJ sequencing of antigen-enriched B cells from 60 convalescent patients. From 8,558 antigen-binding IgG1+ clonotypes, 14 potent neutralizing antibodies were identified with the most potent one, BD-368-2, exhibiting an IC50 of 1.2 ng/mL and 15 ng/mL against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2, respectively. BD-368-2 also displayed strong therapeutic and prophylactic efficacy in SARS-CoV-2-infected hACE2-transgenic mice. Additionally, the 3.8Å Cryo-EM structure of a neutralizing antibody in complex with the spike-ectodomain trimer revealed the antibody’s epitope overlaps with the ACE2 binding site. Moreover, we demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibodies could be directly selected based on similarities of their predicted CDR3H structures to those of SARS-CoV neutralizing antibodies. Altogether, we showed that human neutralizing antibodies could be efficiently discovered by high-throughput single B-cell sequencing in response to pandemic infectious diseases.


Drosophila melanogaster has a rich repertoire of innate and learned behaviors. Its 100,000-neuron brain is a large but tractable target for comprehensive neural circuit mapping. Only electron microscopy (EM) enables complete, unbiased mapping of synaptic connectivity; however, the fly brain is too large for conventional EM. We developed a custom high-throughput EM platform and imaged the entire brain of an adult female fly at synaptic resolution. To validate the dataset, we traced brain-spanning circuitry involving the mushroom body (MB), which has been extensively studied for its role in learning. All inputs to Kenyon cells (KCs), the intrinsic neurons of the MB, were mapped, revealing a previously unknown cell type, postsynaptic partners of KC dendrites, and unexpected clustering of olfactory projection neurons. These reconstructions show that this freely available EM volume supports mapping of brain-spanning circuits, which will significantly accelerate Drosophila neuroscience. VIDEO ABSTRACT.


In this issue of Cell, Korber et al. found that a SARS-CoV-2 variant in the spike protein D614G rapidly became dominant around the world. Although clinical and in vitro data suggest that D614G changes the virus phenotype, the impact of the mutation on transmission, disease, and vaccine and therapeutic development are largely unknown.