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SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein dually regulates innate immune responses

By Yinghua Zhao, Liyan Sui, Ping Wu, Wenfang Wang, Guangyun Tan, Zedong Wang, Yang Yu, Zhijun Hou, Guoqing Wang, Quan Liu

Posted 18 Feb 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.02.17.431755

The recently emerged severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of the ongoing global pandemic of COVID-19, may trigger immunosuppression in the early stage and a cytokine storm in the late stage of infection, however, the underlying mechanisms are not well understood. Here we demonstrated that the SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid (N) protein dually regulated innate immune responses, i.e., the low-dose N protein suppressed type I interferon (IFN-I) signaling and inflammatory cytokines, whereas high-dose N protein promoted IFN-I signaling and inflammatory cytokines. Mechanistically, the SARS-CoV-2 N protein interacted with the tripartite motif protein 25 (TRIM25), thereby dually regulating the phosphorylation and nuclear translocation of IRF3, STAT1 and STAT2. Additionally, low-dose N protein combined with TRIM25 could suppress retinoic acid-inducible gene I (RIG-I) ubiquitination and activation. Our findings revealed a regulatory mechanism of innate immune responses by the SARS-CoV-2 N protein, which would contribute to understanding the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 and other SARS-like coronaviruses, and development of more effective strategies for controlling COVID-19.

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