Link to HAL – pasteur-04168583
Link to DOI – 10.1101/2021.03.18.436013
Receptor recognition is a major determinant of viral host range, infectivity and pathogenesis. Emergences have been associated with serendipitous events of adaptation upon encounters with novel hosts, and the high mutation rate of RNA viruses may explain their frequent host shifts. SARS-CoV-2 extensive circulation in humans results in the emergence of variants, including variants of concern (VOCs) with diverse mutations notably in the spike, and increased transmissibility or immune escape. Here we show that, unlike the initial and Delta variants, the three VOCs bearing the N501Y mutation can infect common laboratory mice. Contact transmission occurred from infected to naive mice through two passages. This host range expansion likely results from an increased binding of the spike to the mouse ACE2. Together with the observed contact transmission, it raises the possibility of wild rodent secondary reservoirs enabling the emergence of new variants.