• Drosophila, a powerful model to study virus-host interactions and pathogenicity in the fight against SARS-CoV-2

      van de Leemput, Joyce; Han, Zhe (Springer Nature, 2021-06-13)
      The COVID-19 pandemic is having a tremendous impact on humanity. Although COVID-19 vaccines are showing promising results, they are not 100% effective and resistant mutant SARS-CoV-2 strains are on the rise. To successfully fight against SARS-CoV-2 and prepare for future coronavirus outbreaks, it is essential to understand SARS-CoV-2 protein functions, their host interactions, and how these processes convey pathogenicity at host tissue, organ and systemic levels. In vitro models are valuable but lack the physiological context of a whole organism. Current animal models for SARS-CoV-2 research are exclusively mammals, with the intrinsic limitations of long reproduction times, few progeny, ethical concerns and high maintenance costs. These limitations make them unsuitable for rapid functional investigations of virus proteins as well as genetic and pharmacological screens. Remarkably, 90% of the SARS-CoV-2 virus-host interacting proteins are conserved between Drosophila and humans. As a well-established model system for studying human diseases, the fruit fly offers a highly complementary alternative to current mammalian models for SARS-CoV-2 research, from investigating virus protein function to developing targeted drugs. Herein, we review Drosophila's track record in studying human viruses and discuss the advantages and limitations of using fruit flies for SARS-CoV-2 research. We also review studies that already used Drosophila to investigate SARS-CoV-2 protein pathogenicity and their damaging effects in COVID-19 relevant tissues, as well as studies in which the fly was used as an efficient whole animal drug testing platform for targeted therapeutics against SARS-CoV-2 proteins or their host interacting pathways.