#SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein co-opts VEGF-A/Neuropilin-1 receptor signaling to induce #analgesia

Global spread of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) continues unabated. Binding of SARS-CoV-2’s Spike protein to host angiotensin converting enzyme 2 triggers viral entry, but other proteins may participate, including neuropilin-1 receptor (NRP-1). As both Spike protein and vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) – a pro-nociceptive and angiogenic factor, bind NRP-1, we tested if Spike could block VEGF-A/NRP-1 signaling.

VEGF-A–triggered sensory neuronal firing was blocked by Spike protein and NRP-1 inhibitor EG00229. Pro-nociceptive behaviors of VEGF-A were similarly blocked via suppression of spontaneous spinal synaptic activity and reduction of electrogenic currents in sensory neurons. Remarkably, preventing VEGF-A/NRP-1 signaling was antiallodynic in a neuropathic pain model.

A ‘silencing’ of pain via subversion of VEGF-A/NRP-1 signaling may underlie increased disease transmission in asymptomatic individuals.