The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 envelope protein (S2-E) is a conserved membrane protein that is important for coronavirus (CoV) assembly and budding. Here, we describe the recombinant expression and purification of S2-E in amphipol-class amphipathic polymer solutions, which solubilize and stabilize membrane proteins, but do not disrupt membranes. We found that amphipol delivery of S2-E to preformed planar bilayers results in spontaneous membrane integration and formation of viroporin cation channels. Amphipol delivery of the S2-E protein to human cells results in plasma membrane integration, followed by retrograde trafficking to the trans-Golgi network and accumulation in swollen perinuclear lysosomal-associated membrane protein 1-positive vesicles, likely lysosomes. CoV envelope proteins have previously been proposed to manipulate the luminal pH of the trans-Golgi network, which serves as an accumulation station for progeny CoV particles prior to cellular egress via lysosomes. Delivery of S2-E to cells will enable chemical biological approaches for future studies of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 pathogenesis and possibly even development of "Trojan horse" antiviral therapies. Finally, this work also establishes a paradigm for amphipol-mediated delivery of membrane proteins to cells.
Keywords: E protein; SARS; amphipol; coronavirus; envelope; insertion; ion channel; lysosomes; membrane; trans-Golgi network.
Copyright © 2021 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.