Discovery and functional interrogation of SARS-CoV-2 protein-RNA interactions

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2022 Feb 23:2022.02.21.481223. doi: 10.1101/2022.02.21.481223.


The COVID-19 pandemic is caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). The betacoronvirus has a positive sense RNA genome which encodes for several RNA binding proteins. Here, we use enhanced crosslinking and immunoprecipitation to investigate SARS-CoV-2 protein interactions with viral and host RNAs in authentic virus-infected cells. SARS-CoV-2 proteins, NSP8, NSP12, and nucleocapsid display distinct preferences to specific regions in the RNA viral genome, providing evidence for their shared and separate roles in replication, transcription, and viral packaging. SARS-CoV-2 proteins expressed in human lung epithelial cells bind to 4773 unique host coding RNAs. Nine SARS-CoV-2 proteins upregulate target gene expression, including NSP12 and ORF9c, whose RNA substrates are associated with pathways in protein N-linked glycosylation ER processing and mitochondrial processes. Furthermore, siRNA knockdown of host genes targeted by viral proteins in human lung organoid cells identify potential antiviral host targets across different SARS-CoV-2 variants. Conversely, NSP9 inhibits host gene expression by blocking mRNA export and dampens cytokine productions, including interleukin-1α/β. Our viral protein-RNA interactome provides a catalog of potential therapeutic targets and offers insight into the etiology of COVID-19 as a safeguard against future pandemics.

Publication types

  • Preprint