Isolation and characterization of current human coronavirus strains in primary human epithelial cell cultures reveal differences in target cell tropism.J Virol. 2013 Jun; 87(11):6081-90.JV
The human airway epithelium (HAE) represents the entry port of many human respiratory viruses, including human coronaviruses (HCoVs). Nowadays, four HCoVs, HCoV-229E, HCoV-OC43, HCoV-HKU1, and HCoV-NL63, are known to be circulating worldwide, causing upper and lower respiratory tract infections in nonhospitalized and hospitalized children. Studies of the fundamental aspects of these HCoV infections at the primary entry port, such as cell tropism, are seriously hampered by the lack of a universal culture system or suitable animal models. To expand the knowledge on fundamental virus-host interactions for all four HCoVs at the site of primary infection, we used pseudostratified HAE cell cultures to isolate and characterize representative clinical HCoV strains directly from nasopharyngeal material. Ten contemporary isolates were obtained, representing HCoV-229E (n = 1), HCoV-NL63 (n = 1), HCoV-HKU1 (n = 4), and HCoV-OC43 (n = 4). For each strain, we analyzed the replication kinetics and progeny virus release on HAE cell cultures derived from different donors. Surprisingly, by visualizing HCoV infection by confocal microscopy, we observed that HCoV-229E employs a target cell tropism for nonciliated cells, whereas HCoV-OC43, HCoV-HKU1, and HCoV-NL63 all infect ciliated cells. Collectively, the data demonstrate that HAE cell cultures, which morphologically and functionally resemble human airways in vivo, represent a robust universal culture system for isolating and comparing all contemporary HCoV strains.