A novel cell-based binding assay system reconstituting interaction between SARS-CoV S protein and its cellular receptor

17 Oct 2013

Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), a life-threatening disease, is caused by the newly identified virus SARS coronavirus (SARSCoV). In order to study the spike (S) protein of this highly contagious virus, we established a clonal cell-line, CHO-SG, from the Chinese hamster ovary cells that stably expresses C-terminally EGFP-tagged SARS-CoV S protein (S-EGFP). The ectodomain of the S glycoprotein is localized on the surface of CHO-SG cells with N-acetyl-glucosamine-terminated carbohydrate structure. CHO-SG cells associated tightly with Vero E6 cells, a SARS-CoV receptor (ACE2) expressing cell-line, and the interaction remained stable under highly stringent condition (1MNaCl). This interaction could be blocked by either the serum from a SARS convalescent patient or a goat anti-ACE2 antibody, indicating that the interaction is specific. A binding epitope with lesser degree of glycosylation and native conformation was localized by using rabbit anti-sera raised against five denatured recombinant S protein fragments expressed in Escherichia coli. One of the sera obtained from the fragment encompassing amino acids 48-358 significantly blocked the interaction between CHO-SG and Vero E6 cells. The region is useful for studying neutralizing antibodies in future vaccine development. This paper describes an easy and safe cell-based assay suitable for studying the binding between SARS-CoV S protein and its receptor.