CoVid-19 is characterized by infection of the airways by SARS-CoV-2. Apart from the respiratory tract, other organs are also involved, e.g. the intestinal tract. The importance of the intestinal infection is increasingly recognized. In a large proportion of pediatric patients, virus was detected in rectal swabs and virus shedding from the intestine was found even when oral swabs had become negative. Therefore, prolonged virus shedding and fecal-oral transmission have to be considered. This notion is supported by detection of the virus in wastewater.
The aim of this project is to apply intestinal cell cultures to characterize the infection of differentiated intestinal epithelial cells by SARS-CoV-2 and thereafter intestinal orgranoids.
This in vitro infection approach will target the following aims:
1. Characterization of the replication efficiency of SARS-CoV-2 (virus yield, virus exit, virus entry, apical, basolateral).
2. Localization of the cellular receptor(s) in human intestinal Caco-2 cells
3. Investigation of the trafficking of the cellular receptor(s), determination and subsequent modulation of their mode of interaction with membrane microdomains (lipid rafts, LRs)
4. Effects of glycosylation modulators on the spike glycoprotein and its interaction with intestinal cells
5. Implication of virus infection on the trafficking and function of crucial enzymes of the intestinal physiology (APN, SI, LPH, DPP4).
This project will provide substantial information on the replication of SARS-CoV-2 in intestinal epithelial cells, evaluate its effects on the intestinal function and provide solid hypotheses on the molecular and biochemical basis for the symptoms elicited by SARS-CoV-2 infections. These hypotheses can be then examined at a later stage in intestinal organoids. Further, unravelling the biosynthetic pathway, glycosylation pattern and mode of interaction of the SARS-CoV-2 receptors and its modulation could constitute exquisite targets for potential therapy.