Abstract: A weak production of INF-β along with an exacerbated release of pro-inflammatory cytokines have been reported during infection by the novel SARS-CoV-2 virus. SARS-CoV-2 encodes several proteins able to counteract the host immune system, which is believed to be one of the most important features contributing to the viral pathogenesis and development of a severe clinical picture. Previous reports have demonstrated that SARS-CoV-2 N protein, along with some non-structural and accessory proteins, efficiently suppresses INF-β production by interacting with RIG-I, an important pattern recognition receptor (PRR) involved in the recognition of pathogen-derived molecules. In the present study, we better characterized the mechanism by which the SARS-CoV-2 N counteracts INF-β secretion and affects RIG-I signaling pathways. In detail, when the N protein was ectopically expressed, we noted a marked decrease in TRIM25-mediated RIG-I activation. The capability of the N protein to bind to, and probably mask, TRIM25 could be the consequence of its antagonistic activity. Furthermore, this interaction occurred at the SPRY domain of TRIM25, harboring the RNA-binding activity necessary for TRIM25 self-activation. Here, we describe new findings regarding the interplay between SARS-CoV-2 and the IFN system, filling some gaps for a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms affecting the innate immune response in COVID-19.
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