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EuropePMC; 2022.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-335222


Variant of concern (VOC) Omicron-BA1 has achieved global predominance in early 2022. Therefore, surveillance and comprehensive characterization of Omicron-BA.1 in advanced primary cell culture systems and multiple animal models is urgently needed. Here, we characterized Omicron-BA.1 and recombinant Omicron-BA.1 spike gene mutants in comparison with VOC Delta in well-differentiated primary human nasal and bronchial epithelial cells in vitro, followed by in vivo fitness characterization in naïve hamsters, ferrets and hACE2-expressing mice, and in immunized hACE2-mice. We demonstrate a spike-mediated enhancement of early replication of Omicron-BA.1 in nasal epithelial cultures, but limited replication in bronchial epithelial cultures. In Syrian hamsters, Delta showed dominance over Omicron-BA.1 and in ferrets, Omicron-BA.1 infection was abortive. In mice expressing the authentic hACE2-receptor, Delta and a Delta spike clone also showed dominance over Omicron-BA.1 and an Omicron-BA.1 spike clone, respectively. Interestingly, in naïve K18-hACE2 mice, we observed Delta spike-mediated increased replication and pathogenicity and Omicron-BA.1 spike-mediated reduced replication and pathogenicity, suggesting that the spike gene is a major determinant of both Delta and Omicron-BA.1 replication and pathogenicity. Finally, the Omicron-BA.1 spike clone was less well controlled by mRNA-vaccination in K18-hACE2-mice and became more competitive compared to the progenitor and Delta spike clones, suggesting that spike gene-mediated immune evasion is another important factor that led to Omicron-BA.1 dominance.

Science ; 374(6571): 1099-1106, 2021 Nov 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1467657


Molecular virology tools are critical for basic studies of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and for developing new therapeutics. Experimental systems that do not rely on viruses capable of spread are needed for potential use in lower-containment settings. In this work, we use a yeast-based reverse genetics system to develop spike-deleted SARS-CoV-2 self-replicating RNAs. These noninfectious self-replicating RNAs, or replicons, can be trans-complemented with viral glycoproteins to generate replicon delivery particles for single-cycle delivery into a range of cell types. This SARS-CoV-2 replicon system represents a convenient and versatile platform for antiviral drug screening, neutralization assays, host factor validation, and viral variant characterization.

RNA, Viral/genetics , Replicon/physiology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Animals , Antibodies, Neutralizing/immunology , Antibodies, Viral/immunology , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , Cell Line , Humans , Interferons/pharmacology , Microbial Sensitivity Tests , Mutation , Plasmids , RNA, Viral/metabolism , Replicon/genetics , Reverse Genetics , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Saccharomyces cerevisiae/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/genetics , Viral Nonstructural Proteins/metabolism , Virion/genetics , Virion/physiology , Virus Replication
Nature ; 582(7813): 561-565, 2020 06.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-164589


Reverse genetics has been an indispensable tool to gain insights into viral pathogenesis and vaccine development. The genomes of large RNA viruses, such as those from coronaviruses, are cumbersome to clone and manipulate in Escherichia coli owing to the size and occasional instability of the genome1-3. Therefore, an alternative rapid and robust reverse-genetics platform for RNA viruses would benefit the research community. Here we show the full functionality of a yeast-based synthetic genomics platform to genetically reconstruct diverse RNA viruses, including members of the Coronaviridae, Flaviviridae and Pneumoviridae families. Viral subgenomic fragments were generated using viral isolates, cloned viral DNA, clinical samples or synthetic DNA, and these fragments were then reassembled in one step in Saccharomyces cerevisiae using transformation-associated recombination cloning to maintain the genome as a yeast artificial chromosome. T7 RNA polymerase was then used to generate infectious RNA to rescue viable virus. Using this platform, we were able to engineer and generate chemically synthesized clones of the virus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2)4, which has caused the recent pandemic of coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in only a week after receipt of the synthetic DNA fragments. The technical advance that we describe here facilitates rapid responses to emerging viruses as it enables the real-time generation and functional characterization of evolving RNA virus variants during an outbreak.

Betacoronavirus/genetics , Cloning, Molecular/methods , Coronavirus Infections/virology , Genome, Viral/genetics , Genomics/methods , Pneumonia, Viral/virology , Reverse Genetics/methods , Synthetic Biology/methods , Animals , COVID-19 , China/epidemiology , Chlorocebus aethiops , Chromosomes, Artificial, Yeast/metabolism , Coronavirus Infections/epidemiology , DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases/metabolism , Evolution, Molecular , Humans , Mutation , Pandemics/statistics & numerical data , Pneumonia, Viral/epidemiology , Respiratory Syncytial Viruses/genetics , SARS-CoV-2 , Saccharomyces cerevisiae/genetics , Vero Cells , Viral Proteins/metabolism , Zika Virus/genetics