The relevance of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) ORF8 in the pathogenesis of COVID-19 is unclear. Virus natural isolates with deletions in ORF8 were associated with wild milder disease, suggesting that ORF8 might contribute to SARS-CoV-2 virulence. This manuscript shows that ORF8 is involved in inflammation and in the activation of macrophages in two experimental systems: humanized K18-hACE2 transgenic mice and organoid-derived human airway cells. These results identify ORF8 protein as a potential target for COVID-19 therapies.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; accessory proteins; coronavirus; viral pathogenesis; virulence.