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Infectious Clones Produce SARS-CoV-2 That Causes Severe Pulmonary Disease in Infected K18-Human ACE2 Mice

, Liu X., Zaid A., Freitas J.R., McMillan N.A., Taylor A.
Published in American Society for Microbiology
Volume: 12
Issue: 2
Newly emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of the ongoing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, which has caused extensive mortality and morbidity and wreaked havoc on socioeconomic structures. The urgent need to better understand SARS-CoV-2 biology and enable continued development of effective countermeasures is aided by the production of laboratory tools that facilitate SARS-CoV-2 research. We previously created a directly accessible SARS-CoV-2 toolkit containing user-friendly reverse genetic (RG) infectious clones of SARS-CoV-2. Here, using K18-human ACE2 (hACE2) mice, we confirmed the validity of RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 viruses to reproduce the infection profile, clinical disease, and pathogenesis already established in mice infected with natural SARS-CoV-2 isolates, often patient derived. RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2-infected K18-hACE2 mice developed substantial clinical disease and weight loss by day 6 postinfection. RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 was recovered from the lungs and brains of infected K18-hACE2 mice, and infection resulted in viral pneumonia with considerable changes in lung pathology, as seen previously with natural SARS-CoV-2 infection. In mice infected with RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2-mCherry, mCherry was detected in areas of lung consolidation and colocalized with clinically relevant SARS-CoV-2-assocated immunopathology. RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 viruses successfully reca-pitulated many of the features of severe COVID-19 associated with the K18-hACE2 model of SARS-CoV-2 infection. With utility in vivo, the RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 viruses will be valuable resources to advance numerous areas of SARS-CoV-2 basic research and COVID-19 vaccine development. IMPORTANCE To develop COVID-19 countermeasures, powerful research tools are essential. We produced a SARS-COV-2 reverse genetic (RG) infectious clone toolkit that will benefit a variety of investigations. In this study, we further prove the tool-kit’s value by demonstrating the in vivo utility of RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 isolates. RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 isolates reproduce disease signs and pathology characteristic of the K18-hACE2 mouse model of severe COVID-19 in infected mice. Having been validated as a model of severe COVID-19 previously using only natural SARS-CoV-2 isolated from patients, this is the first investigation of RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 viruses in K18-hACE2 mice. The RG-rescued SARS-CoV-2 viruses will facilitate basic under-standing of SARS-CoV-2 and the preclinical development of COVID-19 therapeutics. © 2021 Liu et al.
About the journal
PublisherAmerican Society for Microbiology
Open AccessYes