Hippo signaling pathway activation during SARS-CoV-2 infection contributes to host antiviral response

PLoS Biol. 2022 Nov 8;20(11):e3001851. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001851. eCollection 2022 Nov.


Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), responsible for the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, causes respiratory failure and damage to multiple organ systems. The emergence of viral variants poses a risk of vaccine failures and prolongation of the pandemic. However, our understanding of the molecular basis of SARS-CoV-2 infection and subsequent COVID-19 pathophysiology is limited. In this study, we have uncovered a critical role for the evolutionarily conserved Hippo signaling pathway in COVID-19 pathogenesis. Given the complexity of COVID-19-associated cell injury and immunopathogenesis processes, we investigated Hippo pathway dynamics in SARS-CoV-2 infection by utilizing COVID-19 lung samples and human cell models based on pluripotent stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (PSC-CMs) and human primary lung air-liquid interface (ALI) cultures. SARS-CoV-2 infection caused activation of the Hippo signaling pathway in COVID-19 lung and in vitro cultures. Both parental and Delta variant of concern (VOC) strains induced Hippo pathway. The chemical inhibition and gene knockdown of upstream kinases MST1/2 and LATS1 resulted in significantly enhanced SARS-CoV-2 replication, indicating antiviral roles. Verteporfin, a pharmacological inhibitor of the Hippo pathway downstream transactivator, YAP, significantly reduced virus replication. These results delineate a direct antiviral role for Hippo signaling in SARS-CoV-2 infection and the potential for this pathway to be pharmacologically targeted to treat COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • COVID-19*
  • Hippo Signaling Pathway
  • Humans
  • SARS-CoV-2


  • Antiviral Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • SARS-CoV-2 variants