Published on Fri Jun 04 2021

Genome-scale CRISPR Screens Identify Host Factors that Promote Human Coronavirus Infection

Grodzki, M., Bluhm, A. P., Schafer, M., Tagmount, A., Russo, M., Sobh, A., Rafiee, R., Vulpe, C. D., Karst, S. M., Norris, M. H.

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in 153 million infections and 3.2 million deaths. There is still a great need for antiviral therapies as potentially antigenically distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants continue to emerge across the globe.

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Abstract

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in 153 million infections and 3.2 million deaths as of May 2021. While effective vaccines are being administered globally, there is still a great need for antiviral therapies as potentially antigenically distinct SARS-CoV-2 variants continue to emerge across the globe. Viruses require host factors at every step in their life cycle, representing a rich pool of candidate targets for antiviral drug design. To identify host factors that promote SARS-CoV-2 infection with potential for broad-spectrum activity across the coronavirus family, we performed genome-scale CRISPR knockout screens in two cell lines (Vero E6 and HEK293T ectopically expressing ACE2) with SARS-CoV-2 and the common cold-causing human coronavirus OC43. While we identified multiple genes and functional pathways that have been previously reported to promote human coronavirus replication, we also identified a substantial number of novel genes and pathways. Of note, host factors involved in cell cycle regulation were enriched in our screens as were several key components of the programmed mRNA decay pathway. Finally, we identified novel candidate antiviral compounds targeting a number of factors revealed by our screens. Overall, our studies substantiate and expand the growing body of literature focused on understanding key human coronavirus-host cell interactions and exploit that knowledge for rational antiviral drug development. One Sentence SummaryGenome-wide CRISPR screens identified host factors that promote human coronavirus infection, revealing novel antiviral drug targets.