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Summary of Using Vero Cells in Biology Studies

Vero is a kidney epithetical cell line derived from an African Green Monkey. Vero gets its name from a derivation of green kidney- Verda Reno. Verotoxin, a potent E.coli toxin that is involved in severe food poisoning and can cause kidney failure, was originally so-named (now known as shiga-like toxin) as it was first screened by its ability to kill vero cells.

Vero cell lines are used less frequently in biological studies than the more popular HeLa cell line, in part because this is a non-human cell line. However, Vero cell lineages are still widely used for screening purposes for bacterial toxins, viruses and for parasite studies. Since they are derived from normal kidney cells and not immortal cells like HeLa, Vero cells retain the attributes of normal cells, notably cell contact inhibition. So, once they reach confluence in the cell mono layer, they need to be passaged otherwise they will start to die off.  In addition, Vero cells have been used in the development and validation of techniques such as super resolution microscopy.

The emergence of novel coronaviruses that have caused more lethal illnesses, namely SARS, MERS and COVID-19 has led to an increase into research of coronaviruses and for identifying antiviral strategies for COVID-19 in particular. Vero cell lines are one of a number of cell lines that are being used in a large number of these studies. Examples of these studies include evaluation of existing antiviral and other drugs for improved treatment within as short a time-frame as possible. It is often difficult to obtain robust data from the clinical cases directly given the many variables involved. For example, use of anti-viral treatments may have improved patient outcome if given at an early stage but not once complications developed further, or that the patient may have recovered regardless of being given a specific treatment. Therefore, effective research models are one important part of helping to determine what anti-viral treatments can be seen to have a statistically relevant impact and warrant further study.

What are the applications of Vero cells?

  • Toxin screening
  • Virus studies1 including rabies, influenza,2 dengue,3 measles,4 polio5, rubella6 and corona viruses7,8.

Further reading on experiments involving the Vero cell line

  1. A Mild and Reliable Method to Label Enveloped Virus with Quantum Dots by Copper-Free Click Chemistry, J. Hao, L-L. Huang, R. Zhang, H-Z. Wang and H-Y. Xie, Anal. Chem.2012, 8419, 8364-8370,
  2. Comparative study of influenza virus replication in Vero and MDCK cell lines, R. Youila, Q. Sua, T.J. Tonera, C. Szymkowiaka, W-S. Kwana, B. Rubina, L. Petrukhina, I. Kiselevab, A.R. Shawa, D. DiStefanoa, 2004, Journal of Virological Methods, 120, 23–31, doi:10.1016/j.jviromet.2004.03.011
  3. Inhibition of Dengue Virus Serotypes 1 to 4 in Vero Cell Cultures with Morpholino Oligomers, R. M. Kinney, C. Y.-H. Huang, B. C. Rose, A. D. Kroeker, T. W. Dreher, P. L. Iversen and D. A. Stein, Journal of Virology, 2008, 79, 8, 5116-5128, DOI: 10.1128/JVI.79.8.5116-5128.2005
  4. Increased binding activity of measles virus to monkey red blood cells after long-term passage in Vero cell cultures, K. Shibahara, H. Hotta, Y. Katayama and M. Homma, 1994, Journal of General Virology, 75, 12, 3511 3516,
  5. Thousand litre scale microcarrier culture of Vero cells for killed polio virus vaccine. Promising results, B. Montagnon, J. C. Vincent-Falquet, B. Fanget, Developments in Biological Standardization, 1983, 55, 37-42
  6. Defectiveness of Interferon Production and of Rubella Virus Interference in a Line of African Green Monkey Kidney Cells (Vero), J. Desmyter, J. L. Melnick, W. E. Rawls, Journal of Virology, 1968, 2, 10, 955-961
  7. Replication of MERS and SARS coronaviruses in bat cells offers insights to their ancestral origins. Susanna K. P. Lau, Rachel Y. Y. Fan, Hayes K. H. Luk, Longchao Zhu, Joshua Fung, Kenneth S. M. Li, Emily Y. M. Wong, Syed Shakeel Ahmed, Jasper F. W. Chan, Raven K. H. Kok, Kwok-Hung Chan, Ulrich Wernery, Kwok-Yung Yuen & Patrick C. Y. Woo(2018) , Emerging Microbes & Infections, 7:1, 1-11, DOI: 1038/s41426-018-0208-9
  8. Kim JM, Chung YS, Jo HJ, et al. Identification of Coronavirus Isolated from a Patient in Korea with COVID-19. Osong Public Health Res Perspect. 2020;11(1):3–7. doi:10.24171/j.phrp.2020.11.1.02

Read more in the Cell Lines Series

Date: May 2020

Author: Dr Alan Mullan & Dr Aleksandra Marsh

Category: Application Note

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