The Integral Membrane Protein ZMPSTE24 Protects Cells from SARS-CoV-2 Spike-Mediated Pseudovirus Infection and Syncytia Formation.mBio. 2022 10 26; 13(5):e0254322.MBIO
COVID-19 pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has had a devastating impact on global public health, emphasizing the importance of understanding innate immune mechanisms and cellular restriction factors that cells can harness to fight viral infections. The multimembrane-spanning zinc metalloprotease ZMPSTE24 is one such restriction factor. ZMPSTE24 has a well-characterized proteolytic role in the maturation of prelamin A, precursor of the nuclear scaffold protein lamin A. An apparently unrelated role for ZMPSTE24 in viral defense involves its interaction with the interferon-inducible membrane proteins (IFITMs), which block virus-host cell fusion by rigidifying cellular membranes and thereby prevent viral infection. ZMPSTE24, like the IFITMs, defends cells against a broad spectrum of enveloped viruses. However, its ability to protect against coronaviruses has never been examined. Here, we show that overexpression of ZMPSTE24 reduces the efficiency of cellular infection by SARS-CoV-2 Spike-pseudotyped lentivirus and that genetic knockout or small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of endogenous ZMPSTE24 enhances infectivity. We further demonstrate a protective role for ZMPSTE24 in a Spike-ACE2-dependent cell-cell fusion assay. In both assays, a catalytic dead version of ZMPSTE24 is equally as protective as the wild-type protein, indicating that ZMPSTE24's proteolytic activity is not required for defense against SARS-CoV-2. Finally, we demonstrate by plaque assays that Zmpste24-/- mouse cells show enhanced infection by a genuine coronavirus, mouse hepatitis virus (MHV). This study extends the range of viral protection afforded by ZMPSTE24 to include coronaviruses and suggests that targeting ZMPSTE24's mechanism of viral defense could have therapeutic benefit. IMPORTANCE The COVID-19 pandemic caused by the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 has underscored the importance of understanding intrinsic cellular components that can be harnessed as the cell's first line of defense to fight against viral infection. Our paper focuses on one such protein, the integral membrane protease ZMPSTE24, which interacts with interferon-inducible transmembrane proteins (IFITMs). IFITMs interfere with virus entry by inhibiting fusion between viral and host cell membranes, and ZMPSTE24 appears to contribute to this inhibitory activity. ZMPSTE24 has been shown to defend cells against several, but not all, enveloped viruses. In this study, we extend ZMPSTE24's reach to include coronaviruses, by showing that ZMPSTE24 protects cells from SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirus infection, Spike protein-mediated cell-cell fusion, and infection by the mouse coronavirus MHV. This work lays the groundwork for further studies to decipher the mechanistic role of ZMPSTE24 in blocking the entry of SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses into cells.