Acta Biotheoretica 70 (1) (2021)

Viruses are the simplest of pathogens, but possess sophisticated molecular mechanisms to manipulate host behavior, frequently utilizing molecular mimicry. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 has been shown to bind to the host receptor neuropilin-1 in order to gain entry into the cell. To do this, the virus utilizes its spike protein polybasic cleavage site, which mimics the CendR motif of neuropilin-1’s endogenous ligands. In addition to facilitating cell entry, binding to neuropilin-1 has analgesic effects. We discuss the potential impact of neuropilin-1 binding by SARS-CoV-2 in ameliorating sickness behavior of the host, and identify a convergent evolutionary strategy of PCS cleavage and subsequent neuropilin binding in other human viruses. In addition, we discuss the evolutionary leap of the ancestor of SARS-COV-2, which involved acquisition of the PCS thus faciliting binding to the neuropilin-1 receptor. Acquisition of the PCS by the ancestor of SARS-CoV-2 appears to have led to pleiotropic beneficial effects including enhancement of cell entry via binding to ACE2, facilitation of cell entry via binding to neuropilin-1, promotion of analgesia, and potentially the formation of decoy epitopes via enhanced shedding of the S1 subunit. Lastly, other potential neuromanipulation strategies employed by SARS-CoV-2 are discussed, including interferon suppression and the resulting reduction in sickness behavior, enhanced transmission through neurally mediated cough induction, and reduction in sense of smell.
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Reprint years 2022
DOI 10.1007/s10441-021-09425-z
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Reflections on Self-Deception.William von Hippel & Robert Trivers - 2011 - Behavioral and Brain Sciences 34 (1):41-56.
The Curious Case of the Spanish Flu.Frans Roes - 2018 - Biological Theory 13 (4):243-245.

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