The pandemic of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has caused a global outbreak and prompted an enormous research effort. Still, the subcellular localization of the coronavirus in lungs of COVID-19 patients is not well understood. Here, the localization of the SARS-CoV-2 proteins is studied in postmortem lung material of COVID-19 patients and in SARS-CoV-2-infected Vero cells, processed identically. Correlative light and electron microscopy on semithick cryo-sections demonstrated induction of electron-lucent, lipid-filled compartments after SARS-CoV-2 infection in both lung and cell cultures. In lung tissue, the nonstructural protein 4 and the stable nucleocapsid N-protein were detected on these novel lipid-filled compartments. The induction of such lipid-filled compartments and the localization of the viral proteins in lung of patients with fatal COVID-19 may explain the extensive inflammatory response and provide a new hallmark for SARS-CoV-2 infection at the final, fatal stage of infection.
- Electron microscopy