Coronavirus-Infected Cells Grow Filopodia

SARS-CoV-2 causes cells to put out projections that spread the virus, a study finds.

Shawna Williams
Shawna Williams

Shawna joined The Scientist in 2017 and is now a senior editor and news director. She holds a bachelor's degree in biochemistry from Colorado College and a graduate certificate and science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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Jun 30, 2020
Filopodia protrusions extend from the surface of a cultured monkey cell to enable budding of viral particles (circular spheres) and infection of nearby cells.

When SARS-CoV-2 infects cultured monkey cells, it co-opts numerous host proteins, changing their function through chemical tags known as phosphate groups, a study finds. Among the effects, the study authors report this week (June 28) in Cell, is that a cell protein called CK2 spurs the growth of tentacle-like protrusions known as filopodia. These filopodia contain viral particles and are likely used to poke holes in nearby cells, spreading SARS-CoV-2 to them, according to a university press release.

A pair of human colon cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 produce filopodia (white) containing viral particles.