Welcome to Prism!

Upload scholarly work, create communities, get citable links and more. To get the most out of Prism, log in with your NetID and check out our guide.

Published June 9, 2021 | Version v1.0.0
Journal Article Open

SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 Forms Intracellular Aggregates and Inhibits IFN-Induced Antiviral Gene Expression in Human Lung Epithelial Cells


Infection with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes COVID-19, a disease that involves significant lung tissue damage. How SARS-CoV-2 infection leads to lung injury remains elusive. The open reading frame 8 (ORF8) protein of SARS-CoV-2 (ORF8(SARS-CoV-2)) is a unique accessory protein, yet little is known about its cellular function. We examined the cellular distribution of ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) and its role in the regulation of human lung epithelial cell proliferation and antiviral immunity. Using live imaging and immunofluorescent staining analyses, we found that ectopically expressed ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) forms aggregates in the cytosol and nuclear compartments of lung epithelial cells. Using in silico bioinformatic analysis, we found that ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) possesses an intrinsic aggregation characteristic at its N-terminal residues 1-18. Cell culture did not reveal any effects of ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) expression on lung epithelial cell proliferation and cell cycle progression, suggesting that ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) aggregates do not affect these cellular processes. Interestingly, ectopic expression of ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) in lung epithelial cells suppressed basal expression of several antiviral molecules, including DHX58, ZBP1, MX1, and MX2. In addition, expression of ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) attenuated the induction of antiviral molecules by IFN gamma but not by IFN beta in lung epithelial cells. Taken together, ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) is a unique viral accessory protein that forms aggregates when expressing in lung epithelial cells. It potently inhibits the expression of lung cellular anti-viral proteins at baseline and in response to IFN gamma in lung epithelial cells, which may facilitate SARS-CoV-2 escape from the host antiviral innate immune response during early viral infection. In addition, it seems that formation of ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) aggregate is independent from the viral infection. Thus, it would be interesting to examine whether any COVID-19 patients exhibit persistent ORF8 SARS-CoV-2 expression after recovering from SARS-CoV-2 infection. If so, the pathogenic effect of prolonged ORF8(SARS-CoV-2) expression and its association with post-COVID symptoms warrant investigation in the future.


original_citation: Geng H, Subramanian S, Wu LT, Bu HF, Wang X, Du C, De Plaen IG, Tan XD. SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 Forms Intracellular Aggregates and Inhibits IFN gamma-Induced Antiviral Gene Expression in Human Lung Epithelial Cells. Frontiers in Immunology. 2021;12:11.


SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 Forms Intracellular Aggregates.pdf
Files (4.2 MB)

Additional details

March 30, 2023
March 30, 2023