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Sars-cov-2, COVID-19, Cell Entry, Evasion Mechanisms, Cell-to-cell Fusion, Cell-in-cell Syncytia, Nanotube, Glycan Capping, Extracellular Vesicles, Exosomes

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Viruses and their hosts have coevolved for a long time. This coevolution places both the pathogen and the human immune system under selective pressure; on the one hand, the immune system has evolved to combat viruses and virally infected cells, while viruses have developed sophisticated mechanisms to escape recognition and destruction by the immune system. SARS-CoV-2, the pathogen that is causing the current COVID-19 pandemic, has shown a remarkable ability to escape antibody neutralization, putting vaccine efficacy at risk. One of the virus’s immune evasion strategies is mitochondrial sabotage: by causing reactive oxygen species (ROS) production, mitochondrial physiology is impaired, and the interferon antiviral response is suppressed. Seminal studies have identified an intra-cytoplasmatic pathway for viral infection, which occurs through the construction of tunneling nanotubes (TNTs), hence enhancing infection and avoiding immune surveillance. Another method of evading immune monitoring is the disruption of the antigen presentation. In this scenario, SARS-CoV-2 infection reduces MHC-I molecule expression: SARS-CoV-2’s open reading frames (ORF 6 and ORF 8) produce viral proteins that specifically downregulate MHC-I molecules. All of these strategies are also exploited by other viruses to elude immune detection and should be studied in depth to improve the effectiveness of future antiviral treatments. Compared to the Wuhan strain or the Delta variant, Omicron has developed mutations that have impaired its ability to generate syncytia, thus reducing its pathogenicity. Conversely, other mutations have allowed it to escape antibody neutralization and preventing cellular immune recognition, making it the most contagious and evasive variant to date.

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Biomedicines, v. 10, issue 6, art. 1339