Protein LRRC15 in the lung binds and blocks SARS-CoV-2 preventing infection
As SARS-CoV-2 began spreading across the globe, scientists raced to understand the virus’s biology and behaviour. They quickly discovered that entry into cells occurred via the ACE2 receptor, abundant in the lungs. But questions remained over why some people die from COVID-19 while others have mild symptoms or none at all. Differences in immune responses may be partly to blame, but researchers have also investigated other host factors influencing severity. A recent screen for human proteins that interact with SARS-CoV-2 led to the discovery of LRRC15 (stained green in this section of postmortem lung from a COVID-19 patient). LRRC15 binds tightly to the virus but, unlike ACE2, this stickiness prevents its entry into cells. Preliminary evidence indicates COVID-19 patients with high amounts of LRRC15 fair better than those with low levels, which if confirmed suggests drugs designed to boost or mimic the protein might help speed recovery.
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