Analysis of SARS-CoV-2 infection dynamic in vivo using reporter-expressing viruses

Academic Article


  • Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of the current COVID-19 pandemic, is one of the biggest threats to public health. However, the dynamic of SARS-CoV-2 infection remains poorly understood. Replication-competent recombinant viruses expressing reporter genes provide valuable tools to investigate viral infection. Low levels of reporter gene expressed from previous reporter-expressing recombinant (r)SARS-CoV-2 in the locus of the open reading frame (ORF)7a protein have jeopardized their use to monitor the dynamic of SARS-CoV-2 infection in vitro or in vivo. Here, we report an alternative strategy where reporter genes were placed upstream of the highly expressed viral nucleocapsid (N) gene followed by a porcine tescherovirus (PTV-1) 2A proteolytic cleavage site. The higher levels of reporter expression using this strategy resulted in efficient visualization of rSARS-CoV-2 in infected cultured cells and excised lungs or whole organism of infected K18 human angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (hACE2) transgenic mice. Importantly, real-time viral infection was readily tracked using a noninvasive in vivo imaging system and allowed us to rapidly identify antibodies which are able to neutralize SARS-CoV-2 infection in vivo. Notably, these reporter-expressing rSARS-CoV-2, in which a viral gene was not deleted, not only retained wild-type (WT) virus-like pathogenicity in vivo but also exhibited high stability in vitro and in vivo, supporting their use to investigate viral infection, dissemination, pathogenesis, and therapeutic interventions for the treatment of SARS-CoV-2 in vivo.
  • Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Ye C; Chiem K; Park JG; Silvas JA; Vasquez DM; Sourimant J; Lin MJ; Greninger AL; Plemper RK; Torrelles JB
  • Volume

  • 118
  • Issue

  • 41