A key feature of the mammalian innate immune response to viral infection is the transcriptional induction of interferon (IFN) genes, which encode for secreted proteins that prime the antiviral response and limit viral replication and dissemination. A hallmark of severe COVID-19 disease caused by SARS-CoV-2 is the low presence of IFN proteins in patient serum despite elevated levels of
-encoding mRNAs, indicative of post-transcriptional inhibition of IFN protein production. Herein, we show SARS-CoV-2 infection limits type I and type III IFN biogenesis by preventing the release of mRNA from their sites of transcription and/or triggering their nuclear degradation. In addition, SARS-CoV-2 infection inhibits nuclear-cytoplasmic transport of
mRNAs as a consequence of widespread cytosolic mRNA degradation mediated by both activation of the host antiviral endoribonuclease, RNase L, and by the SARS-CoV-2 protein, Nsp1. These findings argue that inhibition of host and/or viral Nsp1-mediated mRNA decay, as well as IFN treatments, may reduce viral-associated pathogenesis by promoting the innate immune response.