Coronavirus: Viruses| Free Full-Text | SARS-CoV-2 ORF8: A Rapidly Evolving Immune and Viral Modulator in COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in upwards of 6.8 million deaths over the past three years, and the frequent emergence of variants continues to strain global health. Although vaccines have greatly helped mitigate disease severity, SARS-CoV-2 is likely to remain endemic, making it critical to understand its viral mechanisms contributing to pathogenesis and discover new antiviral therapeutics. To efficiently infect, this virus uses a diverse set of strategies to evade host immunity, accounting for its high pathogenicity and rapid spread throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Behind some of these critical host evasion strategies is the accessory protein Open Reading Frame 8 (ORF8), which has gained recognition in SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis due to its hypervariability, secretory property, and unique structure. This review discusses the current knowledge on SARS-CoV-2 ORF8 and proposes actualized functional models describing its pivotal roles in both viral replication and immune evasion. A better understanding of ORF8’s interactions with host and viral factors is expected to reveal essential pathogenic strategies utilized by SARS-CoV-2 and inspire the development of novel therapeutics to improve COVID-19 disease outcomes.
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