Generation and Characterization of recombinant SARS-CoV-2 expressing reporter genes [article]

Kevin Chiem, Desarey Morales Vasquez, Jun-Gyu Park, Roy Neal Platt, Tim Anderson, Mark R. Walter, James J Kobie, Chengjin Ye, Luis Martínez-Sobrido
2020 bioRxiv   pre-print
The emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the pathogen responsible of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has devastated public health services and economies worldwide. Despite global efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, SARS-CoV-2 is now found in over 200 countries and has caused an upward death toll of over 1 million human lives as of November 2020. To date, only one FDA-approved therapeutic drug (Remdesivir) and a monoclonal antibody, MAb
more » ... ab), but no vaccines, are available for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2. As with other viruses, studying SARS-CoV-2 requires the use of secondary approaches to detect the presence of the virus in infected cells. To overcome this limitation, we have generated replication-competent recombinant (r)SARS-CoV-2 expressing fluorescent (Venus or mCherry) or bioluminescent (Nluc) reporter genes. Vero E6 cells infected with reporter-expressing rSARS-CoV-2 can be easily detected via fluorescence or luciferase expression and display a good correlation between reporter gene expression and viral replication. Moreover, rSARS-CoV-2 expressing reporter genes have comparable plaque sizes and growth kinetics to those of wild-type virus, rSARS-CoV-2/WT. We used these reporter-expressing rSARS-CoV-2 to demonstrate their feasibility to identify neutralizing antibodies (NAbs) or antiviral drugs. Our results demonstrate that reporter-expressing rSARS-CoV-2 represent an excellent option to identify therapeutics for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2, where reporter gene expression can be used as valid surrogates to track viral infection. Moreover, the ability to manipulate the viral genome opens the feasibility of generating viruses expressing foreign genes for their use as vaccines for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
doi:10.1101/2020.11.16.386003 fatcat:5s2bkue6jfhvvnbyn4q4nfzl64