The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), underscores the urgency to develop experimental systems for studying this virus and identifying countermeasures. We report a reverse genetic system for SARS-CoV-2. Seven complimentary DNA (cDNA) fragments spanning the SARS-CoV-2 genome were assembled into a full-genome cDNA. RNA transcribed from the full-genome cDNA was highly infectious after electroporation into cells, producing 2.9 × 106 plaque-forming unit (PFU)/mL of virus. Compared with a clinical isolate, the infectious-clone-derived SARS-CoV-2 (icSARS-CoV-2) exhibited similar plaque morphology, viral RNA profile, and replication kinetics. Additionally, icSARS-CoV-2 retained engineered molecular markers and did not acquire other mutations. We generated a stable mNeonGreen SARS-CoV-2 (icSARS-CoV-2-mNG) by introducing this reporter gene into ORF7 of the viral genome. icSARS-CoV-2-mNG was successfully used to evaluate the antiviral activities of interferon (IFN). Collectively, the reverse genetic system and reporter virus provide key reagents to study SARS-CoV-2 and develop countermeasures.
Keywords: COVID-19; SARS-CoV; SARS-CoV-2; antiviral; coronavirus; vaccine.
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