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EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-293045


Interferons are a major part of the anti-viral innate defense system. Successful pathogens, including the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), need to overcome these defenses to establish an infection. Early induction of interferons (IFNs) protects against severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In line with this, SARS-CoV-2 is inhibited by IFNs in vitro, and IFN-based therapies against COVID-19 are investigated in clinical trials. However, SARS-CoV-2 continues to adapt to the human population resulting in the emergence of variants characterized by increased transmission fitness and/or decreased sensitivity to preventive or therapeutic measures. It has been suggested that the efficient spread of these so-called "Variants of Concern" (VOCs) may also involve reduced sensitivity to IFNs. Here, we examined whether the four current VOCs (Alpha, Beta, Gamma and Delta) differ in replication efficiency or IFN sensitivity from an early isolate of SARS-CoV-2. All viruses replicated in a human lung cell line and in iPSC-derived alveolar type II cells (iAT2). The Delta variant showed accelerated replication kinetics and higher infectious virus production compared to the early 2020 isolate. Replication of all SARS-CoV-2 VOCs was reduced in the presence of exogenous type I, II and III IFNs. On average, the Alpha variant was the least susceptible to IFNs and the Alpha, Beta and Gamma variants show increased resistance against type III IFN. Although the Delta variant has outcompeted all other variants in humans it remained as sensitive to IFNs as an early 2020 SARS-CoV-2 isolate. This suggests that increased replication fitness rather than IFN resistance may be a reason for its dominance. Our results may help to understand changes in innate immune susceptibility of VOCs, and inform clinical trials exploring IFN-based COVID-19 therapies.

Cell Rep ; 35(7): 109126, 2021 05 18.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1222854


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) evades most innate immune responses but may still be vulnerable to some. Here, we systematically analyze the impact of SARS-CoV-2 proteins on interferon (IFN) responses and autophagy. We show that SARS-CoV-2 proteins synergize to counteract anti-viral immune responses. For example, Nsp14 targets the type I IFN receptor for lysosomal degradation, ORF3a prevents fusion of autophagosomes and lysosomes, and ORF7a interferes with autophagosome acidification. Most activities are evolutionarily conserved. However, SARS-CoV-2 Nsp15 antagonizes IFN signaling less efficiently than the orthologs of closely related RaTG13-CoV and SARS-CoV-1. Overall, SARS-CoV-2 proteins counteract autophagy and type I IFN more efficiently than type II or III IFN signaling, and infection experiments confirm potent inhibition by IFN-γ and -λ1. Our results define the repertoire and selected mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 innate immune antagonists but also reveal vulnerability to type II and III IFN that may help to develop safe and effective anti-viral approaches.

COVID-19/virology , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , Viral Proteins/immunology , Animals , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Autophagosomes/immunology , Autophagy/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , Cell Line , Chlorocebus aethiops , Exoribonucleases/immunology , HEK293 Cells , HeLa Cells , Humans , Immune Evasion , Immunity, Innate , Interferon Type I/metabolism , Interferons/metabolism , Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta/antagonists & inhibitors , Receptor, Interferon alpha-beta/immunology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Vero Cells , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/immunology
Nat Commun ; 12(1): 1726, 2021 03 19.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1142436


SARS-CoV-2 is a respiratory pathogen and primarily infects the airway epithelium. As our knowledge about innate immune factors of the respiratory tract against SARS-CoV-2 is limited, we generated and screened a peptide/protein library derived from bronchoalveolar lavage for inhibitors of SARS-CoV-2 spike-driven entry. Analysis of antiviral fractions revealed the presence of α1-antitrypsin (α1AT), a highly abundant circulating serine protease inhibitor. Here, we report that α1AT inhibits SARS-CoV-2 entry at physiological concentrations and suppresses viral replication in cell lines and primary cells including human airway epithelial cultures. We further demonstrate that α1AT binds and inactivates the serine protease TMPRSS2, which enzymatically primes the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein for membrane fusion. Thus, the acute phase protein α1AT is an inhibitor of TMPRSS2 and SARS-CoV-2 entry, and may play an important role in the innate immune defense against the novel coronavirus. Our findings suggest that repurposing of α1AT-containing drugs has prospects for the therapy of COVID-19.

COVID-19/drug therapy , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Serine Endopeptidases/metabolism , Serine Proteinase Inhibitors/pharmacology , alpha 1-Antitrypsin/pharmacology , Antibodies, Viral/blood , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/blood , Caco-2 Cells , Humans , Immunoglobulin G/blood , Molecular Docking Simulation , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Virus Internalization/drug effects , Virus Replication/drug effects