COVID-19, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, is a global health issue with more than 2 million fatalities to date. Viral replication is shaped by the cellular microenvironment, and one important factor to consider is oxygen tension, in which hypoxia inducible factor (HIF) regulates transcriptional responses to hypoxia. SARS-CoV-2 primarily infects cells of the respiratory tract, entering via its spike glycoprotein binding to angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). We demonstrate that hypoxia and the HIF prolyl hydroxylase inhibitor Roxadustat reduce ACE2 expression and inhibit SARS-CoV-2 entry and replication in lung epithelial cells via an HIF-1α-dependent pathway. Hypoxia and Roxadustat inhibit SARS-CoV-2 RNA replication, showing that post-entry steps in the viral life cycle are oxygen sensitive. This study highlights the importance of HIF signaling in regulating multiple aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infection and raises the potential use of HIF prolyl hydroxylase inhibitors in the prevention or treatment of COVID-19.
Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK; Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences (CAMS) Oxford Institute (COI), University of Oxford, Oxford, UK.