Characterization of the Lipidomic Profile of Human Coronavirus-Infected Cells: Implications for Lipid Metabolism Remodeling upon Coronavirus Replication

Viruses. 2019 Jan 16;11(1):73. doi: 10.3390/v11010073.


Lipids play numerous indispensable cellular functions and are involved in multiple steps in the replication cycle of viruses. Infections by human-pathogenic coronaviruses result in diverse clinical outcomes, ranging from self-limiting flu-like symptoms to severe pneumonia with extrapulmonary manifestations. Understanding how cellular lipids may modulate the pathogenicity of human-pathogenic coronaviruses remains poor. To this end, we utilized the human coronavirus 229E (HCoV-229E) as a model coronavirus to comprehensively characterize the host cell lipid response upon coronavirus infection with an ultra-high performance liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (UPLC⁻MS)-based lipidomics approach. Our results revealed that glycerophospholipids and fatty acids (FAs) were significantly elevated in the HCoV-229E-infected cells and the linoleic acid (LA) to arachidonic acid (AA) metabolism axis was markedly perturbed upon HCoV-229E infection. Interestingly, exogenous supplement of LA or AA in HCoV-229E-infected cells significantly suppressed HCoV-229E virus replication. Importantly, the inhibitory effect of LA and AA on virus replication was also conserved for the highly pathogenic Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Taken together, our study demonstrated that host lipid metabolic remodeling was significantly associated with human-pathogenic coronavirus propagation. Our data further suggested that lipid metabolism regulation would be a common and druggable target for coronavirus infections.

Keywords: HCoV-229E; MERS-CoV; UHPLC–MS; lipidomics.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Cell Line
  • Chromatography, Liquid
  • Coronavirus 229E, Human / physiology*
  • Glycerophospholipids / metabolism
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Linoleic Acid / metabolism
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Tandem Mass Spectrometry
  • Virus Replication*


  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Linoleic Acid