Morphogenesis and cytopathic effect of SARS-CoV-2 infection in human airway epithelial cells

Na Zhu, Wenling Wang, Zhidong Liu, Chaoyang Liang, Wen Wang, Fei Ye, Baoying Huang, Li Zhao, Huijuan Wang, Weimin Zhou, Yao Deng, Longfei Mao, Chongyu Su, Guangliang Qiang, Taijiao Jiang, Jincun Zhao, Guizhen Wu, Jingdong Song, Wenjie Tan
Nature Communications 2020 August 6, 11 (1): 3910
SARS-CoV-2, a β-coronavirus, has rapidly spread across the world, highlighting its high transmissibility, but the underlying morphogenesis and pathogenesis remain poorly understood. Here, we characterize the replication dynamics, cell tropism and morphogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 in organotypic human airway epithelial (HAE) cultures. SARS-CoV-2 replicates efficiently and infects both ciliated and secretory cells in HAE cultures. In comparison, HCoV-NL63 replicates to lower titers and is only detected in ciliated cells. SARS-CoV-2 shows a similar morphogenetic process as other coronaviruses but causes plaque-like cytopathic effects in HAE cultures. Cell fusion, apoptosis, destruction of epithelium integrity, cilium shrinking and beaded changes are observed in the plaque regions. Taken together, our results provide important insights into SARS-CoV-2 cell tropism, replication and morphogenesis.

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