Functional analysis of SARS-CoV-2 proteins in Drosophila identifies Orf6-induced pathogenic effects with Selinexor as an effective treatment

Jun-yi Zhu, Jin-Gu Lee, Joyce van de Leemput, Hangnoh Lee, Zhe Han
2021 Cell & Bioscience  
Background SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19 with a widely diverse disease profile that affects many different tissues. The mechanisms underlying its pathogenicity in host organisms remain unclear. Animal models for studying the pathogenicity of SARS-CoV-2 proteins are lacking. Methods Using bioinformatic analysis, we found that 90% of the virus-host interactions involve human proteins conserved in Drosophila. Therefore, we generated a series of transgenic fly lines for individual SARS-CoV-2 genes,
more » ... ARS-CoV-2 genes, and used the Gal4-UAS system to express these viral genes in Drosophila to study their pathogenicity. Results We found that the ubiquitous expression of Orf6, Nsp6 or Orf7a in Drosophila led to reduced viability and tissue defects, including reduced trachea branching as well as muscle deficits resulting in a "held-up" wing phenotype and poor climbing ability. Furthermore, muscles in these flies showed dramatically reduced mitochondria. Since Orf6 was found to interact with nucleopore proteins XPO1, we tested Selinexor, a drug that inhibits XPO1, and found that it could attenuate the Orf6-induced lethality and tissue-specific phenotypes observed in flies. Conclusions Our study established Drosophila as a model for studying the function of SARS-CoV2 genes, identified Orf6 as a highly pathogenic protein in various tissues, and demonstrated the potential of Selinexor for inhibiting Orf6 toxicity using an in vivo animal model system.
doi:10.1186/s13578-021-00567-8 pmid:33766136 fatcat:mh4pkht355fznnvuhvwrfbhfxi