SARS-CoV-2 envelope protein causes acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)-like pathological damage and constitutes an antiviral target
Posted 29 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.27.174953
Posted 29 Jun 2020
Cytokine storm and multi-organ failure are the main causes of SARS-CoV-2-related death. However, the origin of the virus' excessively damaging abilities remains unknown. Here we show that the SARS-CoV-2 envelope (2-E) protein alone is sufficient to cause acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS)-like damage in vitro and in vivo. Overexpression of 2-E protein induced rapid pyroptosis-like cell death in various susceptible cells and robust secretion of cytokines and chemokines in macrophages. Intravenous administration of purified 2-E protein into mice caused ARDS-like pathological damage in lung and spleen. Overexpressed 2-E protein formed cation channels in host cell membranes, eventually leading to membrane rupture. Newly identified channel inhibitors exhibited potent anti-SARS-CoV-2 activity and excellent protective effects against the 2-E-induced damage both in vitro and in vivo. Importantly, their channel inhibition, cell protection and antiviral activities were positively correlated with each other, supporting 2-E is a promising drug target against SARS-CoV-2. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.
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