Abstract: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS–CoV–2) has led to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID–19) pandemic, severely affecting public health and the global economy. Adaptive immunity plays a crucial role in fighting against SARS–CoV–2 infection and directly influences the clinical outcomes of patients. Clinical studies have indicated that patients with severe COVID–19 exhibit delayed and weak adaptive immune responses; however, the mechanism by which SARS–CoV–2 impedes adaptive immunity remains unclear. Here, by using an in vitro cell line, we report that the SARS–CoV–2 spike protein significantly inhibits DNA damage repair, which is required for effective V(D)J recombination in adaptive immunity. Mechanistically, we found that the spike protein localizes in the nucleus and inhibits DNA damage repair by impeding key DNA repair protein BRCA1 and 53BP1 recruitment to the damage site. Our findings reveal a potential molecular mechanism by which the spike protein might impede adaptive immunity and underscore the potential side effects of full-length spike-based vaccines.
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