Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Investigations on SARS-CoV-2 susceptibility of domestic and wild animals using primary cell culture models derived from the upper and lower respiratory tract

Several animal species are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, as documented by case reports and serological and in vivo infection studies. However, the susceptibility of many animal species remains unknown. Furthermore, the expression patterns of SARS-CoV-2 entry factors, such as the receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), as well as transmembrane protease serine subtype 2 (TMPRSS2) and cathepsin L (CTSL), cellular proteases involved in SARS-CoV-2 spike protein activation, are largely unexplored in most species. Here, we generated primary cell cultures from the respiratory tract of domestic and wildlife animals to assess their susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection. Additionally, the presence of ACE2, TMPRSS2 and CTSL within respiratory tract compartments was investigated in a range of animals, some with unknown susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2. Productive viral replication was observed in the nasal mucosa explants and precision-cut lung slices from dogs and hamsters, whereas culture models from ferrets and multiple ungulate species were non-permissive to infection. Overall, whereas TMPRSS2 and CTSL were equally expressed in the respiratory tract, the expression levels of ACE2 were more variable, suggesting that a restricted availability of ACE2 may contribute to reduced susceptibility. Summarized, the experimental infection of primary respiratory tract cell cultures, as well as an analysis of entry-factor distribution, enable screening for SARS-CoV-2 animal reservoirs.

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