Effect of ambient temperature on respiratory tract cells exposed to SARS-CoV-2 viral mimicking nanospheres - An experimental study
Journal article, 2021

The novel coronavirus caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has reached more than 160 countries and has been declared a pandemic. SARS-CoV-2 infects host cells by binding to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE-2) surface receptor via the spike (S) receptor-binding protein (RBD) on the virus envelope. Global data on a similar infectious disease spread by SARS-CoV-1 in 2002 indicated improved stability of the virus at lower temperatures facilitating its high transmission in the community during colder months (December–February). Seasonal viral transmissions are strongly modulated by temperatures, which can impact viral trafficking into host cells; however, an experimental study of temperature-dependent activity of SARS-CoV-2 is still lacking. We mimicked SARS-CoV-2 with polymer beads coated with the SARS-CoV-2 S protein to study the effect of seasonal temperatures on the binding of virus-mimicking nanospheres to lung epithelia. The presence of the S protein RBD on nanosphere surfaces led to binding by Calu-3 airway epithelial cells via the ACE-2 receptor. Calu-3 and control fibroblast cells with S-RBD-coated nanospheres were incubated at 33 and 37 °C to mimic temperature fluctuations in the host respiratory tract, and we found no temperature dependence in contrast to nonspecific binding of bovine serum ablumin-coated nanospheres. Moreover, the ambient temperature changes from 4 to 40 °C had no effect on S-RBD-ACE-2 ligand-receptor binding and minimal effect on the S-RBD protein structure (up to 40 °C), though protein denaturing occurred at 51 °C. Our results suggest that ambient temperatures from 4 to 40 °C have little effect on the SARS-CoV-2-ACE-2 interaction in agreement with the infection data currently reported.

protein structure

materials properties

epithelial cells


binding protein


diseases and conditions




Alexandra Paul

Chalmers, Biology and Biological Engineering, Chemical Biology

The University of Texas at Austin

Sachin Kumar

The University of Texas at Austin

Sayantani Chatterjee

Max Planck Society

Sabine Pütz

Max Planck Society

Natasha Nehra

The University of Texas at Austin

Daniel S. Wang

The University of Texas at Austin

Arsalan Nisar

The University of Texas at Austin

Christian M. Jennings

The University of Texas at Austin

Sapun H. Parekh

Max Planck Society

The University of Texas at Austin


1559-4106 (ISSN) 1934-8630 (eISSN)

Vol. 16 1 011006

Subject Categories

Infectious Medicine

Other Basic Medicine

Microbiology in the medical area



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