Coronaviruses are important human pathogens, among which the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent for the COVID-19 pandemic. To combat the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, there is a pressing need for antivirals, especially broad-spectrum antivirals that are active against all seven human coronaviruses (HCoVs). For this reason, we are interested in developing antiviral assays to expedite the drug discovery process. Here, we provide the detailed protocol for the cytopathic effect (CPE) assay and the plaque assay for human coronaviruses 229E (HCoV-229E), HCoV-OC43, and HCoV-NL63, to identify novel antivirals against HCoVs. Neutral red was used in the CPE assay, as it is relatively inexpensive and more sensitive than other reagents. Multiple parameters including multiplicity of infection, incubation time and temperature, and staining conditions have been optimized for CPE and plaque assays for HCoV-229E in MRC-5, Huh-7, and RD cell lines; HCoV-OC43 in RD, MRC-5, and BSC-1 cell lines, and HCoV-NL63 in Vero E6, Huh-7, MRC-5, and RD cell lines. Both CPE and plaque assays have been calibrated with the positive control compounds remdesivir and GC-376. Both CPE and plaque assays have high sensitivity, excellent reproducibility, and are cost-effective. The protocols described herein can be used as surrogate assays in the biosafety level 2 facility to identify entry inhibitors and protease inhibitors for SARS-CoV-2, as HCoV-NL63 also uses ACE2 as the receptor for cell entry, and the main proteases of HCoVOC43 and SARS-CoV-2 are highly conserved. In addition, these assays can also be used as secondary assays to profile the broad-spectrum antiviral activity of existing SARS-CoV-2 drug candidates.
- Human Coronavirus
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Immunology and Microbiology(all)
- Plant Science