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New therapeutic targets are a valuable resource for treatment of SARS-CoV-2 viral infection. Genome-wide association studies have identified risk loci associated with COVID-19, but many loci are associated with comorbidities and are not specific to host-virus interactions. Here, we identify and experimentally validate a link between reduced expression of EXOSC2 and reduced SARS-CoV-2 replication. EXOSC2 was one of the 332 host proteins examined, all of which interact directly with SARS-CoV-2 proteins. Aggregating COVID-19 genome-wide association studies statistics for gene-specific eQTLs revealed an association between increased expression of EXOSC2 and higher risk of clinical COVID-19. EXOSC2 interacts with Nsp8 which forms part of the viral RNA polymerase. EXOSC2 is a component of the RNA exosome, and here, LC-MS/MS analysis of protein pulldowns demonstrated interaction between the SARS-CoV-2 RNA polymerase and most of the human RNA exosome components. CRISPR/Cas9 introduction of nonsense mutations within EXOSC2 in Calu-3 cells reduced EXOSC2 protein expression and impeded SARS-CoV-2 replication without impacting cellular viability. Targeted depletion of EXOSC2 may be a safe and effective strategy to protect against clinical COVID-19.

Original publication




Journal article


Life Sci Alliance

Publication Date





COVID-19, Chromatography, Liquid, Codon, Nonsense, DNA-Directed RNA Polymerases, Exosome Multienzyme Ribonuclease Complex, Genome-Wide Association Study, Humans, RNA, Viral, RNA-Binding Proteins, SARS-CoV-2, Tandem Mass Spectrometry, Viral Replicase Complex Proteins, Virus Replication