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Nat Commun ; 13(1): 2237, 2022 04 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1805612


The global spread of SARS-CoV-2 led to major economic and health challenges worldwide. Revealing host genes essential for infection by multiple variants of SARS-CoV-2 can provide insights into the virus pathogenesis, and facilitate the development of novel therapeutics. Here, employing a genome-scale CRISPR screen, we provide a comprehensive data-set of cellular factors that are exploited by wild type SARS-CoV-2 as well as two additional recently emerged variants of concerns (VOCs), Alpha and Beta. We identified several host factors critical for SARS-CoV-2 infection, including various components belonging to the Clathrin-dependent transport pathway, ubiquitination, Heparan sulfate biogenesis and host phosphatidylglycerol biosynthesis. Comparative analysis of the different VOCs revealed the host factors KREMEN2 and SETDB1 as potential unique candidates required only to the Alpha variant. Furthermore, the analysis identified GATA6, a zinc finger transcription factor, as an essential proviral gene for all variants inspected. We show that GATA6 directly regulates ACE2 transcription and accordingly, is critical for SARS-CoV-2 cell entry. Analysis of clinical samples collected from SARS-CoV-2 infected individuals shows elevated levels of GATA6, suggesting a role in COVID-19 pathogenesis. Finally, pharmacological inhibition of GATA6 resulted in down-modulation of ACE2 and inhibition of viral infectivity. Overall, we show GATA6 may represent a target for the development of anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic strategies and reaffirm the value of the CRISPR loss-of-function screens in providing a list of potential new targets for therapeutic interventions.

Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , COVID-19 , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/genetics , COVID-19/genetics , Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats/genetics , GATA6 Transcription Factor/genetics , Humans , Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A/metabolism , Proviruses/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics
Vaccines (Basel) ; 10(4)2022 Apr 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1792374


Longevity of the immune response following viral exposure is an essential aspect of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Mild SARS-CoV-2 infection of K18-hACE2 mice was implemented for evaluating the mounting and longevity of a specific memory immune response. We show that the infection of K18-hACE2 mice induced robust humoral and cellular immunity (systemic and local), which persisted for at least six months. Virus-specific T cells and neutralizing antibody titers decreased over time, yet their levels were sufficient to provide sterile immunity against lethal rechallenge six months post-primary infection. The study substantiates the role of naturally induced immunity against SARS-CoV-2 infection for preventing recurring morbidity.

Pathogens ; 10(8)2021 Jul 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1325751


HLA transgenic mice are instrumental for evaluation of human-specific immune responses to viral infection. Mice do not develop COVID-19 upon infection with SARS-CoV-2 due to the strict tropism of the virus to the human ACE2 receptor. The aim of the current study was the implementation of an adenovirus-mediated infection protocol for human ACE2 expression in HLA transgenic mice. Transient pulmonary expression of the human ACE2 receptor in these mice results in their sensitisation to SARS-CoV-2 infection, consequently providing a valuable animal model for COVID-19. Infection results in a transient loss in body weight starting 3 days post-infection, reaching 20-30% loss of weight at day 7 and full recovery at days 11-13 post-infection. The evolution of the disease revealed high reproducibility and very low variability among individual mice. The method was implemented in two different strains of HLA immunized mice. Infected animals developed strong protective humoral and cellular immune responses specific to the viral spike-protein, strictly depending on the adenovirus-mediated human ACE2 expression. Convalescent animals were protected against a subsequent re-infection with SARS-CoV-2, demonstrating that the model may be applied for assessment of efficacy of anti-viral immune responses.

JCI Insight ; 6(12)2021 06 22.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1223641


Mice are normally unaffected by SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection since the virus does not bind effectively to the murine version of the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor molecule. Here, we report that induced mild pulmonary morbidities rendered SARS-CoV-2-refractive CD-1 mice susceptible to this virus. Specifically, SARS-CoV-2 infection after application of low doses of the acute lung injury stimulants bleomycin or ricin caused severe disease in CD-1 mice, manifested by sustained body weight loss and mortality rates greater than 50%. Further studies revealed markedly higher levels of viral RNA in the lungs, heart, and serum of low-dose ricin-pretreated mice compared with non-pretreated mice. Furthermore, lung extracts prepared 2-3 days after viral infection contained subgenomic mRNA and virus particles capable of replication only when derived from the pretreated mice. The deleterious effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection were effectively alleviated by passive transfer of polyclonal or monoclonal antibodies generated against the SARS-CoV-2 receptor binding domain (RBD). Thus, viral cell entry in the sensitized mice seems to depend on viral RBD binding, albeit by a mechanism other than the canonical ACE2-mediated uptake route. This unique mode of viral entry, observed over a mildly injured tissue background, may contribute to the exacerbation of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pathologies in patients with preexisting morbidities.

Bleomycin/toxicity , COVID-19/pathology , Lung Injury , Ricin/toxicity , Animals , Chlorocebus aethiops , Comorbidity , Disease Models, Animal , Female , Lung Injury/chemically induced , Lung Injury/virology , Mice , Vero Cells , Virus Attachment , Virus Internalization/drug effects
iScience ; 24(5): 102479, 2021 May 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1202318


Neutralizing antibodies represent a valuable therapeutic approach to countermeasure the current COVID-19 pandemic. Emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants emphasizes the notion that antibody treatments need to rely on highly neutralizing monoclonal antibodies (mAbs), targeting several distinct epitopes for circumventing therapy escape mutants. Previously, we reported efficient human therapeutic mAbs recognizing epitopes on the spike receptor-binding domain (RBD) of SARS-CoV-2. Here we report the isolation, characterization, and recombinant production of 12 neutralizing human mAbs, targeting three distinct epitopes on the spike N-terminal domain of the virus. Neutralization mechanism of these antibodies involves receptors other than the canonical hACE2 on target cells, relying both on amino acid and N-glycan epitope recognition, suggesting alternative viral cellular portals. Two selected mAbs demonstrated full protection of K18-hACE2 transgenic mice when administered at low doses and late post-exposure, demonstrating the high potential of the mAbs for therapy of SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Nat Commun ; 12(1): 944, 2021 02 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1078588


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), exhibits high levels of mortality and morbidity and has dramatic consequences on human life, sociality and global economy. Neutralizing antibodies constitute a highly promising approach for treating and preventing infection by this novel pathogen. In the present study, we characterize and further evaluate the recently identified human monoclonal MD65 antibody for its ability to provide protection against a lethal SARS-CoV-2 infection of K18-hACE2 transgenic mice. Eighty percent of the untreated mice succumbed 6-9 days post-infection, while administration of the MD65 antibody as late as 3 days after exposure rescued all infected animals. In addition, the efficiency of the treatment is supported by prevention of morbidity and ablation of the load of infective virions in the lungs of treated animals. The data demonstrate the therapeutic value of human monoclonal antibodies as a life-saving treatment for severe COVID-19 infection.

Antibodies, Monoclonal/administration & dosage , Antibodies, Neutralizing/administration & dosage , Antibodies, Viral/administration & dosage , COVID-19/immunology , Animals , Antibodies, Monoclonal/genetics , Antibodies, Monoclonal/immunology , Antibodies, Neutralizing/genetics , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/genetics , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , COVID-19/drug therapy , Chlorocebus aethiops , Female , Immunoglobulin G/administration & dosage , Immunoglobulin G/genetics , Immunoglobulin G/immunology , Lung/pathology , Lung/virology , Male , Mice, Inbred C57BL , Mice, Transgenic , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Seroconversion , Vero Cells , Viral Load