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The current pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and outbreaks of new variants highlight the need for preventive treatments. Here, we identified heparan sulfate proteoglycans as attachment receptors for SARS-CoV-2. Notably, neutralizing antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 isolated from COVID-19 patients interfered with SARS-CoV-2 binding to heparan sulfate proteoglycans, which might be an additional mechanism of antibodies to neutralize infection. SARS-CoV-2 binding to and infection of epithelial cells was blocked by low molecular weight heparins (LMWH). Although dendritic cells (DCs) and mucosal Langerhans cells (LCs) were not infected by SARS-CoV-2, both DC subsets efficiently captured SARS-CoV-2 via heparan sulfate proteoglycans and transmitted the virus to ACE2-positive cells. Notably, human primary nasal cells were infected by SARS-CoV-2, and infection was blocked by pre-treatment with LMWH. These data strongly suggest that heparan sulfate proteoglycans are important attachment receptors facilitating infection and transmission, and support the use of LMWH as prophylaxis against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere106765
JournalEMBO Journal
Issue number20
Early online date2021
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2021


  • Heparan sulfate proteoglycans
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • dendritic cells
  • epithelial cells
  • low molecular weight heparins

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