Rapid host response to an infection with Coronavirus. Study of transcriptional responses with Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus

Hou, Wei; Liu, Fei; Poel, W.H.M. van der; Hulst, M.M.


The transcriptional response in Vero cells (ATCC® CCL-81) infected with the coronavirus Porcine Epidemic Diarrhea Virus (PEDV) was measured by RNAseq analysis 4 and 6 hours after infection. Differential expressed genes (DEGs) in PEDV infected cells were compared to DEGs responding in Vero cells infected with Mammalian Orthoreovirus (MRV). Functional analysis of MRV and PEDV DEGs showed that MRV increased the expression level of several cytokines and chemokines (e.g. IL6, CXCL10, IL1A, CXCL8 [alias IL8]) and antiviral genes (e.g. IFI44, IFIT1, MX1, OASL), whereas for PEDV no enhanced expression was observed for these “hallmark” antiviral and immune effector genes. Pathway and Gene Ontology “enrichment analysis” revealed that PEDV infection did not stimulate expression of genes able to activate an acquired immune response, whereas MRV did so within 6h. Instead, PEDV down-regulated the expression of a set of zinc finger proteins with putative antiviral activity and enhanced the expression of the transmembrane serine protease gene TMPRSS13 (alias MSPL) to support its own infection by virus-cell membrane fusion (Shi et al, 2017, Viruses, 9(5):114). PEDV also down-regulated expression of Ectodysplasin A, a cytokine of the TNF-family able to activate the canonical NFKB-pathway responsible for transcription of inflammatory genes like IL1B, TNF, CXCL8 and PTGS2. The only 2 cytokine genes found up-regulated by PEDV were Cardiotrophin-1, an IL6-type cytokine with pleiotropic functions on different tissues and types of cells, and Endothelin 2, a neuroactive peptide with vasoconstrictive properties. Furthermore, by comprehensive datamining in biological and chemical databases and consulting related literature we identified sets of PEDV-response genes with potential to influence i) the metabolism of biogenic amines (e.g. histamine), ii) the formation of cilia and “synaptic clefts” between cells, iii) epithelial mucus production, iv) platelets activation, and v) physiological processes in the body regulated by androgenic hormones (like blood pressure, salt/water balance and energy homeostasis). The information in this study describing a “very early” response of epithelial cells to an infection with a coronavirus may provide pharmacologists, immunological and medical specialists additional insights in the underlying mechanisms of coronavirus associated severe clinical symptoms including those induced by SARS-CoV-2. This may help them to fine-tune therapeutic treatments and apply specific approved drugs to treat COVID-19 patients.