Kidneys are critical target organs of COVID-19, but susceptibility and responses to infection remain poorly understood. Here, we combine SARS-CoV-2 variants with genome-edited kidney organoids and clinical data to investigate tropism, mechanism, and therapeutics. SARS-CoV-2 specifically infects organoid proximal tubules among diverse cell types. Infections produce replicating virus, apoptosis, and disrupted cell morphology, features of which are revealed in the context of polycystic kidney disease. Cross-validation of gene expression patterns in organoids reflects proteomic signatures of COVID-19 in the urine of critically ill patients indicating interferon pathway upregulation. SARS-CoV-2 viral variants alpha, beta, gamma, kappa, and delta exhibit comparable levels of infection in organoids. Infection is ameliorated in ACE2–/– organoids and blocked via treatment with de novo–designed spike binder peptides. Collectively, these studies clarify the impact of kidney infection in COVID-19 as reflected in organoids and clinical populations, enabling assessment of viral fitness and emerging therapies.


Louisa Helms, Silvia Marchiano, Ian B. Stanaway, Tien-Ying Hsiang, Benjamin A. Juliar, Shally Saini, Yan Ting Zhao, Akshita Khanna, Rajasree Menon, Fadhl Alakwaa, Carmen Mikacenic, Eric D. Morrell, Mark M. Wurfel, Matthias Kretzler, Jennifer L. Harder, Charles E. Murry, Jonathan Himmelfarb, Hannele Ruohola-Baker, Pavan K. Bhatraju, Michael Gale Jr., Benjamin S. Freedman


Download this citation for these citation managers:

Or, download this citation in these formats:

If you experience problems using these citation formats, send us feedback.