Human iPSC-derived alveolar and airway epithelial cells can be cultured at air-liquid interface and express SARS-CoV-2 host factors

bioRxiv. 2020 Jun 4;2020.06.03.132639. doi: 10.1101/2020.06.03.132639. Preprint


Development of an anti-SARS-CoV-2 therapeutic is hindered by the lack of physiologically relevant model systems that can recapitulate host-viral interactions in human cell types, specifically the epithelium of the lung. Here, we compare induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC)-derived alveolar and airway epithelial cells to primary lung epithelial cell controls, focusing on expression levels of genes relevant for COVID-19 disease modeling. iPSC-derived alveolar epithelial type II-like cells (iAT2s) and iPSC-derived airway epithelial lineages express key transcripts associated with lung identity in the majority of cells produced in culture. They express ACE2 and TMPRSS2, transcripts encoding essential host factors required for SARS-CoV-2 infection, in a minor subset of each cell sub-lineage, similar to frequencies observed in primary cells. In order to prepare human culture systems that are amenable to modeling viral infection of both the proximal and distal lung epithelium, we adapt iPSC-derived alveolar and airway epithelial cells to two-dimensional air-liquid interface cultures. These engineered human lung cell systems represent sharable, physiologically relevant platforms for SARS-CoV-2 infection modeling and may therefore expedite the development of an effective pharmacologic intervention for COVID-19.

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  • Preprint