Warning: This is a preliminary report that has not been peer-reviewed. It should not be regarded as conclusive, guide clinical practice/health-related behavior, or be reported in news media as established information.

LL-37 fights SARS-CoV-2: The Vitamin D-Inducible Peptide LL-37 Inhibits Binding of SARS-CoV-2 Spike Protein to its Cellular Receptor Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 In Vitro (Preliminary Report)

ObjectiveSevere acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the pathogen accountable for the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Viral entry via binding of the receptor binding domain (RBD) located within the S1 subunit of the SARS-CoV-2 Spike (S) protein to its target receptor angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) 2 is a key ...
step in cell infection. The efficient transition of the virus is linked to a unique protein called open reading frame (ORF) 8. As SARS-CoV-2 infections can develop into life-threatening lower respiratory syndromes, effective therapy options are urgently needed. Several publications propose vitamin D treatment, although its mode of action against COVID-19 is not fully elucidated. It is speculated that vitamin Ds beneficial effects are mediated by up-regulating LL-37, a well-known antimicrobial peptide with antiviral effects.MethodsRecombinantly expressed SARS-CoV-2 S protein, the extended S1 subunit (S1e), the S2 subunit (S2), the receptor binding domain (RBD), and ORF8 were used for surface plasmon resonance (SPR) studies to investigate LL-37s ability to bind to SARS-CoV-2 proteins and to localize its binding site within the S protein. Binding competition studies were conducted to confirm an inhibitory action of LL-37 on the attachment of SARS-CoV-2 S protein to its entry receptor ACE2.ResultsWe could show that LL-37 binds to SARS-CoV-2 S protein (LL-37/SStrep KD = 410 nM, LL-37/SHis KD = 410 nM) with the same affinity, as SARS-CoV-2 binds to hACE2 (hACE2/SStrep KD = 370 nM, hACE2/SHis KD = 370 nM). The binding is not restricted to the RBD of the S protein, but rather distributed along the entire length of the protein. Interaction between LL-37 and ORF8 was detected with a KD of 290 nM. Further, inhibition of the binding of SStrep (IC50 = 740 nM), S1e (IC50 = 170 nM), and RBD (IC50 = 130 nM) to hACE2 by LL-37 was demonstrated.ConclusionsWe have revealed a biochemical link between vitamin D, LL-37, and COVID-19 severity. SPR analysis demonstrated that LL-37 binds to SARS-CoV-2 S protein and inhibits binding to its receptor hACE2, and most likely viral entry into the cell. This study supports the prophylactic use of vitamin D to induce LL-37 that protects from SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the therapeutic administration of vitamin D for the treatment of COVID-19 patients. Further, our results provide evidence that the direct use of LL-37 by inhalation and systemic application may reduce the severity of COVID-19.
Date: Dec. 04, 2020
Status: Preliminary Report
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