The RNA sensor MDA5 detects SARS-CoV-2 infection.
Sampaio NG., Chauveau L., Hertzog J., Bridgeman A., Fowler G., Moonen JP., Dupont M., Russell RA., Noerenberg M., Rehwinkel J.
Human cells respond to infection by SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, by producing cytokines including type I and III interferons (IFNs) and proinflammatory factors such as IL6 and TNF. IFNs can limit SARS-CoV-2 replication but cytokine imbalance contributes to severe COVID-19. We studied how cells detect SARS-CoV-2 infection. We report that the cytosolic RNA sensor MDA5 was required for type I and III IFN induction in the lung cancer cell line Calu-3 upon SARS-CoV-2 infection. Type I and III IFN induction further required MAVS and IRF3. In contrast, induction of IL6 and TNF was independent of the MDA5-MAVS-IRF3 axis in this setting. We further found that SARS-CoV-2 infection inhibited the ability of cells to respond to IFNs. In sum, we identified MDA5 as a cellular sensor for SARS-CoV-2 infection that induced type I and III IFNs.