Extracellular vimentin as a target against SARS-CoV-2 host cell invasion

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Mar 18:2021.01.08.425793. doi: 10.1101/2021.01.08.425793.


Infection of human cells by pathogens, including SARS-CoV-2, typically proceeds by cell surface binding to a crucial receptor. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been identified as a necessary receptor, but not all ACE2-expressing cells are equally infected, suggesting that other extracellular factors are involved in host cell invasion by SARS-CoV-2. Vimentin is an intermediate filament protein that is increasingly recognized as being present on the extracellular surface of a subset of cell types, where it can bind to and facilitate pathogens' cellular uptake. Here, we present evidence that extracellular vimentin might act as a critical component of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-ACE2 complex in mediating SARS-CoV-2 cell entry. We demonstrate direct binding between vimentin and SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus coated with the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and show that antibodies against vimentin block in vitro SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus infection of ACE2-expressing cells. Our results suggest new therapeutic strategies for preventing and slowing SARS-CoV-2 infection, focusing on targeting cell host surface vimentin.

Publication types

  • Preprint