The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a health crisis with major unmet medical needs. The early responses from airway epithelial cells, the first target of the virus regulating the progression toward severe disease, are not fully understood. Primary human air-liquid interface cultures representing the broncho-alveolar epithelia were used to study the kinetics and dynamics of SARS-CoV-2 variants infection. The infection measured by nucleoprotein expression, was a late event appearing between day 4-6 post infection for Wuhan-like virus. Other variants demonstrated increasingly accelerated timelines of infection. All variants triggered similar transcriptional signatures, an "early" inflammatory/immune signature preceding a "late" type I/III IFN, but differences in the quality and kinetics were found, consistent with the timing of nucleoprotein expression. Response to virus was spatially organized: CSF3 expression in basal cells and CCL20 in apical cells. Thus, SARS-CoV-2 virus triggers specific responses modulated over time to engage different arms of immune response.
Keywords: Immunology; Microbiology; biological sciences; molecular biology.
© 2023 The Authors.