An Endogenously activated antiviral state restricts SARS-CoV-2 infection in differentiated primary airway epithelial cells

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Abstract

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the cause of the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic, was identified in late 2019 and went on to cause over 3.3 million deaths in 15 months. To date, targeted antiviral interventions against COVID-19 are limited. The spectrum of SARS-CoV-2 infection ranges from asymptomatic to fatal disease. However, the reasons for varying outcomes to SARS-CoV-2 infection are yet to be elucidated. Here we show that an endogenously activated interferon lambda (IFNλ) pathway leads to resistance against SARS-CoV-2 infection. Using a well-differentiated primary nasal epithelial cell (WD-PNEC) model from multiple adult donors, we discovered that susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection, but not respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection, varied. One of four donors was resistant to SARS-CoV-2 infection. High baseline IFNλ expression levels and associated interferon stimulated genes correlated with resistance to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Inhibition of the JAK/STAT pathway in WD-PNECs with high endogenous IFNλ secretion resulted in higher SARS-CoV-2 titres. Conversely, prophylactic IFNλ treatment of WD-PNECs susceptible to infection resulted in reduced viral titres. An endogenously activated IFNλ response, possibly due to genetic differences, may be one explanation for the differences in susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection in humans. Importantly, our work supports the continued exploration of IFNλ as a potential pharmaceutical against SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Original languageEnglish
TypePreprint article
Media of outputbioRxiv Preprint Server
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 18 Aug 2021

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