Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global pandemic. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is an entry receptor for SARS-CoV-2. The full-length membrane form of ACE2 (memACE2) undergoes ectodomain shedding to generate a shed soluble form (solACE2) that mediates SARS-CoV-2 entry via receptor-mediated endocytosis. Currently, it is not known how the physiological regulation of ACE2 shedding contributes to the etiology of COVID-19 in vivo. The present study identifies Membrane-type 1 Matrix Metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) as a critical host protease for solACE2-mediated SARS-CoV-2 infection. SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to increased activation of MT1-MMP that is colocalized with ACE2 in human lung epithelium. Mechanistically, MT1-MMP directly cleaves memACE2 at M706-S to release solACE218-706 that binds to the SARS-CoV-2 spike proteins (S), thus facilitating cell entry of SARS-CoV-2. Human solACE218-706 enables SARS-CoV-2 infection in both non-permissive cells and naturally insusceptible C57BL/6 mice. Inhibition of MT1-MMP activities suppresses solACE2-directed entry of SARS-CoV-2 in human organoids and aged mice. Both solACE2 and circulating MT1-MMP are positively correlated in plasma of aged mice and humans. Our findings provide in vivo evidence demonstrating the contribution of ACE2 shedding to the etiology of COVID-19.
Scopus Subject Areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Physics and Astronomy(all)