ORF3a mediated-incomplete autophagy facilitates SARS-CoV-2 replication
Posted 12 Nov 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.11.12.380709
Posted 12 Nov 2020
SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent for the COVID-19 pandemic and there is an urgent need to understand the cellular response to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Beclin-1 is an essential scaffold autophagy protein that forms two distinct subcomplexes with modulators Atg14 and UVRAG, responsible for autophagosome formation and maturation, respectively. In the present study, we found that SARS-CoV-2 infection triggers an incomplete autophagy response, elevated autophagosome formation but impaired autophagosome maturation, and declined autophagy by genetic knockout of essential autophagic genes reduces SARS-CoV-2 replication efficiency. By screening 28 viral proteins of SARS-CoV-2, we demonstrated that expression of ORF3a alone is sufficient to induce incomplete autophagy. Mechanistically, SARS-CoV-2 ORF3a interacts with autophagy regulator UVRAG to facilitate Beclin-1-Vps34-Atg14 complex but selectively inhibit Beclin-1-Vps34-UVRAG complex. Interestingly, although SARS-CoV ORF3a shares 72.7% amino acid identity with the SARS-CoV-2 ORF3a, the former had no effect on cellular autophagy response. Thus, our findings provide the mechanistic evidence of possible takeover of host autophagy machinery by ORF3a to facilitate SARS-CoV-2 replication and raises the possibility of targeting the autophagic pathway for the treatment of COVID-19. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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