Document Type


Journal Title

Protein Science

Publication Date





The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection has led to socio-economic shutdowns and the loss of over 5 million lives worldwide. There is a need for the identification of therapeutic targets to treat COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 spike is a target of interest for the development of therapeutic targets. We developed a robust SARS-CoV-2 S spike expression and purification protocol from insect cells and studied four recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike protein constructs based on the original SARS-CoV-2 sequence using a baculovirus expression system: a spike protein receptor-binding domain that includes the SD1 domain (RBD) coupled to a fluorescent tag (S-RBD-eGFP), spike ectodomain coupled to a fluorescent tag (S-Ecto-eGFP), spike ectodomain with six proline mutations and a foldon domain (S-Ecto-HexaPro(+F)), and spike ectodomain with six proline mutations without the foldon domain (S-Ecto-HexaPro(-F)). We tested the yield of purified protein expressed from the insect cell lines Spodoptera frugiperda (Sf9) and Trichoplusia ni (Tni) and compared it to previous research using mammalian cell lines to determine changes in protein yield. We demonstrated quick and inexpensive production of functional glycosylated spike protein of high purity capable of recognizing and binding to the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor. To further confirm functionality, we demonstrate binding of eGFP fused construct of the spike ectodomain (S-Ecto-eGFP) to surface ACE2 receptors on lung epithelial cells by flow cytometry analysis and show that it can be decreased by means of receptor manipulation (blockade or downregulation).

MeSH Headings

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2, Animals, COVID-19, Humans, Insecta, Mammals, Pandemics, Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A, Proline, SARS-CoV-2, Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus