Viral entry inhibitors protect against SARS-CoV-2-induced neurite shortening in differentiated SH-SY5Y cells

Margaux MIGNOLET, Jacques Gilloteaux, Nicolas Halloin, Matthieu Gueibe, Kevin Willemart, Kathleen De Swert, Valery Bielarz, Valérie Suain, Ievgenia Pastushenko, Nicolas Gillet, Charles Nicaise

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The utility of human neuroblastoma cell lines as in vitro model to study neuro-invasiveness and neuro-virulence of SARS-CoV-2 has been demonstrated by our laboratory and others. The aim of this report is to further characterize the associated cellular responses caused by a pre-alpha SARS-CoV-2 strain on differentiated SH-SY5Y and to prevent its cytopathic effect by using a set of entry inhibitors. The susceptibility of SH-SY5Y to SARS-CoV-2 was confirmed at high multiplicity-of-infection, without viral replication or release. Infection caused a reduction in the length of neuritic processes, occurrence of plasma membrane blebs, cell clustering, and changes in lipid droplets electron density. No changes in the expression of cytoskeletal proteins, such as tubulins or tau, could explain neurite shortening. To counteract the toxic effect on neurites, entry inhibitors targeting TMPRSS2, ACE2, NRP1 receptors, and Spike RBD were co-incubated with the viral inoculum. The neurite shortening could be prevented by the highest concentration of camostat mesylate, anti-RBD antibody, and NRP1 inhibitor, but not by soluble ACE2. According to the degree of entry inhibition, the average amount of intracellular viral RNA was negatively correlated to neurite length. This study demonstrated that targeting specific SARS-CoV-2 host receptors could reverse its neurocytopathic effect on SH-SY5Y.

Original languageEnglish
Article number2020
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2023


  • cytopathic effect
  • entry inhibitor
  • neurotropism
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • SH-SY5Y


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