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E-pub ahead of print

Overcoming culture restriction for SARS-CoV-2 in human cells facilitates the screening of compounds inhibiting viral replication

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


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Efforts to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic include screening of existing antiviral molecules that could be re-purposed to treat SARS-CoV-2 infections. Although SARS-CoV-2 replicates and propagates efficiently in African green monkey kidney (Vero) cells, antivirals such as nucleos(t)ide analogs (nucs) often show decreased activity in these cells due to inefficient metabolization. SARS-CoV-2 exhibits low viability in human cells in culture. Here, serial passages of a SARS-CoV-2 isolate (original-SARS2) in the human hepatoma cell clone Huh7.5 led to the selection of a variant (adapted-SARS2) with significantly improved infectivity in human liver (Huh7 and Huh7.5) and lung cancer cells (unmodified Calu-1 and A549). The adapted virus exhibited mutations in the spike protein, including a 9 amino acid deletion and 3 amino acid changes (E484D, P812R, and Q954H). E484D also emerged in Vero E6 cultured viruses that became viable in A549 cells. Original and adapted viruses were susceptible to SR-B1 receptor blocking and adapted-SARS2 exhibited significantly less dependency of ACE2. Both variants were similarly neutralized by COVID-19 convalescent plasma but adapted-SARS2 exhibited increased susceptibility to exogenous type I interferon. Remdesivir inhibited original- and adapted-SARS2 similarly, demonstrating the utility of the system for the screening of nucs. Among the tested nucs, only remdesivir, molnupiravir and to a limited extent galidesivir, showed antiviral effect across human cell lines, whereas sofosbuvir, ribavirin, and favipiravir had no apparent activity. Analogously to the emergence of spike mutations in vivo, the spike protein is under intense adaptive selection pressure in cell culture. Our results indicate that the emergence of spike mutations will most likely not affect the activity of remdesivir.

TidsskriftAntimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy
StatusE-pub ahead of print - 26 apr. 2021

ID: 65316672