There is a critical need for physiologically relevant, robust, and ready-to-use in vitro cellular assay platforms to rapidly model the infectivity of emerging viruses and develop new antiviral treatments. Here we describe the cellular complexity of human alveolar and tracheobronchial air liquid interface (ALI) tissue models during SARS-CoV-2 and influenza A virus (IAV) infections. Our results showed that both SARS-CoV-2 and IAV effectively infect these ALI tissues, with SARS-CoV-2 exhibiting a slower replication peaking at later time-points compared to IAV. We detected tissue-specific chemokine and cytokine storms in response to viral infection, including well-defined biomarkers in severe SARS-CoV-2 and IAV infections such as CXCL10, IL-6, and IL-10. Our single-cell RNA sequencing analysis showed similar findings to that found in vivo for SARS-CoV-2 infection, including dampened IFN response, increased chemokine induction, and inhibition of MHC Class I presentation not observed for IAV infected tissues. Finally, we demonstrate the pharmacological validity of these ALI tissue models as antiviral drug screening assay platforms, with the potential to be easily adapted to include other cell types and increase the throughput to test relevant pathogens.

Fuente: Communications Biology