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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