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Lipid and nucleocapsid N-protein accumulation in COVID-19 patient lung and infected cells

By Anita Grootemaat, Sanne van der Niet, Edwin R. Scholl, Eva Roos, Bernadette Schurink, Marianna Bugiani, Sara E Miller, Per W Larsen, Jeannette Pankras, Eric E Reits, Nicole N van der Wel

Posted 24 Jun 2021
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.24.449252

The pandemic of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global outbreak and prompted an enormous research effort. Still, the subcellular localization of the corona virus in lungs of COVID-19 patients is not well understood. Here, the localization of the SARS-CoV-2 proteins is studied in postmortem lung material of COVID-19 patients and in SARS-CoV-2 infected Vero cells, processed identically. Correlative light and electron microscopy on semi-thick cryo-sections, demonstrated induction of electron-lucent, lipid filled compartments after SARS-CoV-2 infection in both lung and cell cultures. In lung tissue, the non-structural protein 4 and the stable nucleocapsid N-protein, were detected on these novel lipid filled compartments. The induction of such lipid filled compartments and the localization of the viral proteins in lung of patients with fatal COVID-19, may explain the extensive inflammatory response and provide a new hallmark for SARS-Cov-2 infection at the final, fatal stage of infection.

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