The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) expresses high amounts of the protein Orf9b to target the mitochondrial outer membrane protein Tom70. Tom70 serves as an import receptor for mitochondrial precursors and, independently of this function, is critical for the cellular antiviral response. Previous studies suggested that Orf9b interferes with Tom70-mediated antiviral signaling, but its implication for mitochondrial biogenesis is unknown. In this study, we expressed Orf9b in human HEK293 cells and observed an Orf9b-mediated depletion of mitochondrial proteins, particularly in respiring cells. To exclude that the observed depletion was caused by the antiviral response, we generated a yeast system in which the function of human Tom70 could be recapitulated. Upon expression of Orf9b in these cells, we again observed a specific decline of a subset of mitochondrial proteins and a general reduction of mitochondrial volume. Thus, the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to modulate the mitochondrial proteome by a direct effect of Orf9b on mitochondrial Tom70-dependent protein import.

This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 4.0 International license, as described at
You do not currently have access to this content.