Determinants and Mechanisms of the Low Fusogenicity and High Dependence on Endosomal Entry of Omicron Subvariants

Panke Qu, John P. Evans, Chaitanya Kurhade, Cong Zeng, Yi Min Zheng, Kai Xu, Pei Yong Shi, Xuping Xie, Shan Lu Liu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The rapid spread and strong immune evasion of the SARS-CoV-2 Omicron subvariants has raised serious concerns for the global COVID-19 pandemic. These new variants exhibit generally reduced fusogenicity and increased endosomal entry pathway utilization compared to the ancestral D614G variant, the underlying mechanisms of which remain elusive. Here, we show that the C-terminal S1 mutations of the BA.1.1 subvariant, H655Y and T547K, critically govern the low fusogenicity of Omicron. Notably, H655Y also dictates the enhanced endosome entry pathway utilization. Mechanistically, T547K and H655Y likely stabilize the spike trimer conformation as suggested by increased molecular interactions in structural modeling and enhanced S1 shedding of their reversion mutants K547T and Y655H in viral producer cells. Importantly, the H655Y mutation also determines the low fusogenicity and enhanced dependence on the endosomal entry pathway of other Omicron subvariants, including BA.2, BA.2.12.1, BA.4/5, and BA.2.75. Together, these results uncover mechanisms governing Omicron subvariant entry and provide insights into altered Omicron tissue tropism and pathogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2023


  • H655Y
  • Omicron subvariants
  • endosomal entry
  • furin cleavage
  • fusogenicity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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