SARS-CoV-2 variants evolve convergent strategies to remodel the host response

Abstract

SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern (VOCs) emerged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here, we used unbiased systems approaches to study the host-selective forces driving VOC evolution. We discovered that VOCs evolved convergent strategies to remodel the host by modulating viral RNA and protein levels, altering viral and host protein phosphorylation, and rewiring virus-host protein-protein interactions. Integrative computational analyses revealed that although Alpha, Beta, Gamma, and Delta ultimately converged to suppress interferon-stimulated genes (ISGs), Omicron BA.1 did not. ISG suppression correlated with the expression of viral innate immune antagonist proteins, including Orf6, N, and Orf9b, which we mapped to specific mutations. Later Omicron subvariants BA.4 and BA.5 more potently suppressed innate immunity than early subvariant BA.1, which correlated with Orf6 levels, although muted in BA.4 by a mutation that disrupts the Orf6-nuclear pore interaction. Our findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 convergent evolution overcame human adaptive and innate immune barriers, laying the groundwork to tackle future pandemics.

Journal details

Journal Cell
Volume 186
Issue number 21
Pages 4597-4614.e26
Available online
Publication date