One for all-human kidney Caki-1 cells are highly susceptible to infection with corona- and other respiratory viruses

Alison Daniels, Sarah Fletcher, Holly E. M. Kerr, Annika Kratzel, Rute Maria Pinto, Nisha Kriplani, Nicky Craig, C. James Hastie, Paul Davies, Paul Digard, Volker Thiel, Christine Tait-Burkard (Lead / Corresponding author)

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In vitro investigations of host-virus interactions are reliant on suitable cell and tissue culture models. Results are only as good as the model they are generated in. However, choosing cell models for in vitro work often depends on availability and previous use alone. Despite the vast increase in coronavirus research over the past few years, scientists are still heavily reliant on: non-human, highly heterogeneous or not fully differentiated, or naturally unsusceptible cells requiring overexpression of receptors and other accessory factors. Complex primary or stem cell models are highly representative of human tissues but are expensive and time-consuming to develop and maintain with limited suitability for high-throughput experiments.Using tissue-specific expression patterns, we identified human kidney cells as an ideal target for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) and broader coronavirus infection. We show the use of the well-characterized human kidney cell line Caki-1 for infection with three human coronaviruses (hCoVs): Betacoronaviruses SARS-CoV-2 and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome coronavirus and Alphacoronavirus hCoV 229E. Caki-1 cells show equal or superior susceptibility to all three coronaviruses when compared to other commonly used cell lines for the cultivation of the respective virus. Antibody staining against SARS-CoV-2 N protein shows comparable replication rates. A panel of 26 custom antibodies shows the location of SARS-CoV-2 proteins during replication using immunocytochemistry. In addition, Caki-1 cells were found to be susceptible to two other human respiratory viruses, influenza A virus and respiratory syncytial virus, making them an ideal model for cross-comparison for a broad range of respiratory viruses. IMPORTANCE Cell lines remain the backbone of virus research, but results are only as good as their originating model. Despite increased research into human coronaviruses following the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers continue to rely on suboptimal cell line models of: non-human origin, incomplete differentiation, or lacking active interferon responses. We identified the human kidney Caki-1 cell line as a potential target for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). This cell line could be shown to be infectable with a wide range of coronaviruses including common cold virus hCoV-229E, epidemic virus MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 as well as other important respiratory viruses influenza A virus and respiratory syncytial virus. We could show the localization of 26 SARS-CoV-2 proteins in Caki-1 cells during natural replication and the cells are competent of forming a cellular immune response. Together, this makes Caki-1 cells a unique tool for cross-virus comparison in one cell line.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0055523
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Virology
Issue number9
Early online date5 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 28 Sept 2023


  • respiratory virus
  • coronavirus
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • influenza A virus
  • respiratory syncytial virusrespiratory syncytial virus
  • interferon competent
  • hCoV-229E
  • MERS-CoV
  • host-pathogen interaction
  • receptor expression
  • respiratory syncytial virus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Insect Science
  • Virology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology


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