Reverse genetic systems of SARS-CoV-2 for antiviral research

Chaitanya Kurhade, Xuping Xie, Pei Yong Shi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Reverse genetic systems are widely used to engineer recombinant viruses with desired mutations. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, four types of reverse genetic systems have been developed for SARS-CoV-2: (i) a full-length infectious clone that can be used to prepare recombinant SARS-CoV-2 at biosafety level 3 (BSL3), (ii) a trans-complementation system that can be used to produce single-round infectious SARS-CoV-2 at BSL2, (iii) an attenuated SARS-CoV-2 vaccine candidate (with deletions of viral accessory genes) that may be developed for veterinary use as well as for antiviral screening at BSL2, and (iv) replicon systems with deletions of viral structural genes that can be used at BSL2. Each of these genetic systems has its advantages and disadvantages that can be used to address different questions for basic and translational research. Due to the long genomic size and bacteria-toxic sequences of SARS-CoV-2, several experimental approaches have been established to rescue recombinant viruses and replicons, including (i) in vitro DNA ligation, (ii) bacterial artificial chromosome (BAC) system, (iii) yeast artificial chromosome (YAC) system, and (iv) circular polymerase extension reaction (CPER). This review summarizes the current status of SARS-CoV-2 genetic systems and their applications for studying viral replication, pathogenesis, vaccines, and therapeutics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number105486
JournalAntiviral research
StatePublished - Feb 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Virology


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