SARS-CoV-2 spike protein causes blood coagulation and thrombosis by competitive binding to heparan sulfate
. PMID: 34743814
Thrombotic complication has been an important symptom in critically ill patients with COVID-19. It has not been clear whether the virus spike (S) protein can directly induce blood coagulation in addition to inflammation. Heparan sulfate (HS)/heparin, a key factor in coagulation process, was found to bind SARS-CoV-2 S protein with high affinity. Herein, we found that the S protein can competitively inhibit the bindings of antithrombin and heparin cofactor II to heparin/HS, causing abnormal increase in thrombin activity. SARS-CoV-2 S protein at a similar concentration (~10 μg/mL) as the viral load in critically ill patients can cause directly blood coagulation and thrombosis in zebrafish model. Furthermore, exogenous heparin/HS can significantly reduce coagulation caused by S protein, pointing to a potential new direction to elucidate the etiology of the virus and provide fundamental support for anticoagulant therapy especially for the COVID-19 critically ill patients.