Disparate temperature-dependent virus–host dynamics for SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV in the human respiratory epithelium

Philip V’kovski, Mitra Gultom, Jenna N. Kelly, Silvio Steiner, Julie Russeil, Bastien Mangeat, Elisa Cora, Joern Pezoldt, Melle Holwerda, Annika Kratzel, Laura Laloli, Manon Wider, Jasmine Portmann, Thao Tran, Nadine Ebert, Hanspeter Stalder, Rune Hartmann, Vincent Gardeux, Daniel Alpern, Bart DeplanckeVolker Thiel, Ronald Dijkman

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60 Scopus citations


Since its emergence in December 2019, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has spread globally and become a major public health burden. Despite its close phylogenetic relationship to SARS-CoV, SARS-CoV-2 exhibits increased human-to-human transmission dynamics, likely due to efficient early replication in the upper respiratory epithelium of infected individuals. Since different temperatures encountered in the human upper and lower respiratory tract (37oC and 33oC, respectively) have been shown to affect the replication kinetics of several respiratory viruses, as well as host immune response dynamics, we investigated the impact of temperatures during SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV infection using the primary human airway epithelial cell culture model. SARS-CoV-2, in contrast to SARS-CoV, replicated to higher titers when infections were performed at 33oC rather than 37oC. Although both viruses were highly sensitive to type I and type III interferon pretreatment, a detailed time-resolved transcriptome analysis revealed temperature-dependent interferon and pro-inflammatory responses specifically induced by SARS-CoV or SARS-CoV-2, which amplitude was inversely proportional to their replication efficiencies at 33oC or 37oC. These data provide crucial insight on pivotal virus–host interaction dynamics and are in line with characteristic clinical features of SARS-CoV-2 and SARS-CoV, as well as their respective transmission efficiencies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere3001158
JournalPLoS biology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • General Agricultural and Biological Sciences

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