ILRUN downregulates ACE2 expression and blocks infection of human cells by SARS-CoV-2

J Virol. 2021 May 7;JVI.00327-21. doi: 10.1128/JVI.00327-21. Online ahead of print.

Abstract

The human protein-coding gene ILRUN (inflammation and lipid regulator with UBA-like and NBR1-like domains, previously C6orf106) was identified as a proviral factor for Hendra virus infection and recently characterised to function an inhibitor of type-I interferon expression. Here, we have utilised RNA-seq to define cellular pathways regulated by ILRUN in the context of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection of Caco-2 cells. We find that inhibition of ILRUN expression by RNA interference alters transcription profile of numerous cellular pathways, including upregulation of the SARS-CoV-2 entry receptor ACE2 and several other members of the renin-angiotensin aldosterone system. In addition, transcripts of the SARS-CoV-2 co-receptors TMPRSS2 and CTSL were also upregulated. Inhibition of ILRUN also resulted in increased SARS-CoV-2 replication, while overexpression of ILRUN had the opposite effect, identifying ILRUN as a novel antiviral factor for SARS-CoV-2 replication and represents, to our knowledge, the first report of ILRUN as a regulator of the RAAS.IMPORTANCEThere is no doubt that the current rapid global spread of COVID-19 has had significant and far-reaching impacts on our health and economy and will continue to do so. Research in emerging infectious diseases, such as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is growing rapidly, with new breakthroughs in the understanding of host-virus interactions in order to assist with the development of innovative and exciting therapeutic strategies. Here we present the first evidence that modulation of the human protein-encoding gene ILRUN functions as an antiviral factor for SARS-CoV-2 infection, likely through its newly identified role in regulating the expression of SARS-CoV-2 entry receptors ACE2, TMPRSS2 and CTSL. These data improve our understanding of biological pathways that regulate host factors critical to SARS-CoV-2 infection, contributing to the development of antiviral strategies to deal with the current SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.