Macrophages and Monocytes: "Trojan Horses" in COVID-19

Viruses. 2021 Oct 28;13(11):2178. doi: 10.3390/v13112178.


We aimed to explore whether variants of SARS-CoV-2 (Chinese-derived strain (D614, lineage A), Italian strain PV10734 (D614G, lineage B.1.1) and Alpha strain (lineage B.1.1.7)) were able to infect monocytes (MN) and monocyte-derived macrophages (MDM) and whether these infected cells may, in turn, be vectors of infection. For this purpose, we designed an in vitro study following the evolution of MN and MDM infection at different time points in order to confirm whether these cells were permissive for SARS-CoV-2 replication. Finally, we investigated whether, regardless of viral replication, the persistent virus can be transferred to non-infected cells permissive for viral replication. Thus, we co-cultured the infected MN/MDM with permissive VERO E6 cells verifying the viral transmission. This is a further in vitro demonstration of the important role of MN and MDM in the dissemination of SARS-CoV-2 and evolution of the COVID-19 disease.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; Trojan horse; VERO E6 cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Macrophages / ultrastructure
  • Macrophages / virology*
  • Monocytes / ultrastructure
  • Monocytes / virology*
  • Phosphoproteins / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology*
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus / metabolism
  • Vero Cells
  • Virus Internalization
  • Virus Replication


  • Coronavirus Nucleocapsid Proteins
  • Phosphoproteins
  • Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus
  • nucleocapsid phosphoprotein, SARS-CoV-2
  • spike protein, SARS-CoV-2

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants