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ACE2 acts as a novel regulator of TMPRSS2-catalyzed proteolytic activation of influenza A virus in airway cells

Heindl MR, Rupp A-L, Schwerdtner M, Bestle D, Harbig A, De Rocher A, Schmacke LC, Staker B, Steinmetzer T, Stein DA, Moulton HM, Böttcher-Friebertshäuser E
J Virol. 2024 Apr 16;98(4):e0010224. doi: 10.1128/jvi.00102-24
The transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) activates the outer structural proteins of a number of respiratory viruses including influenza A virus (IAV), parainfluenza viruses, and various coronaviruses for membrane fusion. Previous studies showed that TMPRSS2 interacts with the carboxypeptidase angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), a cell surface protein that serves as an entry receptor for some coronaviruses. Here, by using protease activity assays, we determine that ACE2 increases the enzymatic activity of TMPRSS2 in a non-catalytic manner. Furthermore, we demonstrate that ACE2 knockdown inhibits TMPRSS2-mediated cleavage of IAV hemagglutinin (HA) in Calu-3 human airway cells and suppresses virus titers 100- to 1.000-fold. Transient expression of ACE2 in ACE2-deficient cells increased TMPRSS2-mediated HA cleavage and IAV replication. ACE2 knockdown also reduced titers of MERS-CoV and prevented S cleavage by TMPRSS2 in Calu-3 cells. By contrast, proteolytic activation and multicycle replication of IAV with multibasic HA cleavage site typically cleaved by furin were not affected by ACE2 knockdown. Co-immunoprecipitation analysis revealed that ACE2-TMPRSS2 interaction requires the enzymatic activity of TMPRSS2 and the carboxypeptidase domain of ACE2. Together, our data identify ACE2 as a new co-factor or stabilizer of TMPRSS2 activity and as a novel host cell factor involved in proteolytic activation and spread of IAV in human airway cells. Furthermore, our data indicate that ACE2 is involved in the TMPRSS2-catalyzed activation of additional respiratory viruses including MERS-CoV.IMPORTANCEProteolytic cleavage of viral envelope proteins by host cell proteases is essential for the infectivity of many viruses and relevant proteases provide promising drug targets. The transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) has been identified as a major activating protease of several respiratory viruses, including influenza A virus. TMPRSS2 was previously shown to interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Here, we report the mechanistic details of this interaction. We demonstrate that ACE2 increases or stabilizes the enzymatic activity of TMPRSS2. Furthermore, we describe ACE2 involvement in TMPRSS2-catalyzed cleavage of the influenza A virus hemagglutinin and MERS-CoV spike protein in human airway cells. These findings expand our knowledge of the activation of respiratory viruses by TMPRSS2 and the host cell factors involved. In addition, our results could help to elucidate a physiological role for TMPRSS2.
Not Epub
Organism or Cell Type: 
cell culture: Calu-3
Delivery Method: 
(RXR)4 peptide-linked