Targeting the Endocytic Pathway and Autophagy Process as a Novel Therapeutic Strategy in COVID-19

Int J Biol Sci. 2020 Mar 15;16(10):1724-1731. doi: 10.7150/ijbs.45498. eCollection 2020.


Coronaviruses (CoVs) are a group of enveloped, single-stranded positive genomic RNA viruses and some of them are known to cause severe respiratory diseases in human, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the ongoing coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19). One key element in viral infection is the process of viral entry into the host cells. In the last two decades, there is increasing understanding on the importance of the endocytic pathway and the autophagy process in viral entry and replication. As a result, the endocytic pathway including endosome and lysosome has become important targets for development of therapeutic strategies in combating diseases caused by CoVs. In this mini-review, we will focus on the importance of the endocytic pathway as well as the autophagy process in viral infection of several pathogenic CoVs inclusive of SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV and the new CoV named as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and discuss the development of therapeutic agents by targeting these processes. Such knowledge will provide important clues for control of the ongoing epidemic of SARS-CoV-2 infection and treatment of COVID-19.

Keywords: COVID-19; Coronaviruses; SARS-CoV-2; autophagy; endocytic pathway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Autophagy*
  • Betacoronavirus / physiology*
  • COVID-19
  • Cell Line
  • Coronavirus
  • Coronavirus Infections / drug therapy
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology*
  • Endocytosis*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / drug therapy
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology*
  • SARS Virus
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Virus Internalization*

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 drug treatment