SARS-CoV-2 replicates and displays oncolytic properties in clear cell and papillary renal cell carcinoma

Oi Kuan Choong, Rasmus Jakobsson, Anna Grenabo Bergdahl, Sofia Brunet, Ambjörn Kärmander, Jesper Waldenström, Yvonne Arvidsson, Gülay Altiparmak, Jonas A. Nilsson, Joakim Karlsson, Kristina Nyström, Martin E. Johansson

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12 Citations (Web of Science)


The SARS-CoV-2 virus is currently causing a global pandemic. Infection may result in a systemic disease called COVID-19, affecting primarily the respiratory tract. Often the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys also become involved. Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) serves as the receptor for SARS-CoV-2. The membrane proteins, Transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) and Neuropilin 1 (NRP1) are accessory proteins facilitating the virus entry. In this study we show that the human proximal kidney tubules, express these factors. We hypothesized that cancers derived from proximal tubules as clear cell (CCRCC) and papillary renal cell carcinoma (PRCC), retain the expression of the SARS-CoV-2 entry factors making these cancers susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection. We used bioinformatics, western blotting, and assessment of tissue micro arrays (TMA) including 263 cases of CCRCC, 139 cases of PRCC and 18 cases of chromophobe RCC to demonstrate that the majority of CCRCC and PRCC cases retained the RNA and protein expression of the entry factors for SARS-CoV-2. We furthermore show that SARS-CoV-2 virus propagated robustly in primary cultures of CCRCC and PRCC cells with a visible virus cytopathogenic effect correlating with viral RNA expression levels. We also noted that the delta-variant of SARSCoV-2 causes cancer cells to form syncytia in-vitro. This phenomenon was also identified histologically in CCRCC tissue from a patient that had been hospitalized for COVID-19, twelve months prior to nephrectomy. Our data provide insights into SARS-CoV-2 infectivity in renal cell carcinoma and that the virus causes a distinct cytopathogenic effect.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0279578
JournalPLoS One
Issue number1 January
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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