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      SARS-CoV-2 Coronavirus Spike Protein-Induced Apoptosis, Inflammatory, and Oxidative Stress Responses in THP-1-Like-Macrophages: Potential Role of Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme Inhibitor (Perindopril)


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          A purified spike (S) glycoprotein of severe acute respiratory syndrome-related coronavirus 2 (SARS -CoV -2) coronavirus was used to study its effects on THP-1 macrophages, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), and HUVEC cells. The S protein mediates the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into cells through binding to the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors. We measured the viability, intracellular cytokine release, oxidative stress, proinflammatory markers, and THP-1-like macrophage polarization. We observed an increase in apoptosis, ROS generation, MCP-1, and intracellular calcium expression in the THP-1 macrophages. Stimulation with the S protein polarizes the THP-1 macrophages towards proinflammatory futures with an increase in the TNFα and MHC-II M1-like phenotype markers. Treating the cells with an ACE inhibitor, perindopril, at 100 µM reduced apoptosis, ROS, and MHC-II expression induced by S protein. We analyzed the sensitivity of the HUVEC cells after the exposure to a conditioned media (CM) of THP-1 macrophages stimulated with the S protein. The CM induced endothelial cell apoptosis and MCP-1 expression. Treatment with perindopril reduced these effects. However, the direct stimulation of the HUVEC cells with the S protein, slightly increased HIF1α and MCP-1 expression, which was significantly increased by the ACE inhibitor treatment. The S protein stimulation induced ROS generation and changed the mitogenic responses of the PBMCs through the upregulation of TNFα and interleukin (IL)-17 cytokine expression. These effects were reduced by the perindopril (100 µM) treatment. Proteomic analysis of the S protein stimulated THP-1 macrophages with or without perindopril (100 µM) exposed more than 400 differentially regulated proteins. Our results provide a mechanistic analysis suggesting that the blood and vascular components could be activated directly through S protein systemically present in the circulation and that the activation of the local renin angiotensin system may be partially involved in this process.


          Suggested pathways that might be involved at least in part in S protein inducing activation of inflammatory markers (red narrow) and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEi) modulation of this process (green narrow).

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          Most cited references63

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          Systematic and integrative analysis of large gene lists using DAVID bioinformatics resources.

          DAVID bioinformatics resources consists of an integrated biological knowledgebase and analytic tools aimed at systematically extracting biological meaning from large gene/protein lists. This protocol explains how to use DAVID, a high-throughput and integrated data-mining environment, to analyze gene lists derived from high-throughput genomic experiments. The procedure first requires uploading a gene list containing any number of common gene identifiers followed by analysis using one or more text and pathway-mining tools such as gene functional classification, functional annotation chart or clustering and functional annotation table. By following this protocol, investigators are able to gain an in-depth understanding of the biological themes in lists of genes that are enriched in genome-scale studies.
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            COVID-19: consider cytokine storm syndromes and immunosuppression

            As of March 12, 2020, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has been confirmed in 125 048 people worldwide, carrying a mortality of approximately 3·7%, 1 compared with a mortality rate of less than 1% from influenza. There is an urgent need for effective treatment. Current focus has been on the development of novel therapeutics, including antivirals and vaccines. Accumulating evidence suggests that a subgroup of patients with severe COVID-19 might have a cytokine storm syndrome. We recommend identification and treatment of hyperinflammation using existing, approved therapies with proven safety profiles to address the immediate need to reduce the rising mortality. Current management of COVID-19 is supportive, and respiratory failure from acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) is the leading cause of mortality. 2 Secondary haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (sHLH) is an under-recognised, hyperinflammatory syndrome characterised by a fulminant and fatal hypercytokinaemia with multiorgan failure. In adults, sHLH is most commonly triggered by viral infections 3 and occurs in 3·7–4·3% of sepsis cases. 4 Cardinal features of sHLH include unremitting fever, cytopenias, and hyperferritinaemia; pulmonary involvement (including ARDS) occurs in approximately 50% of patients. 5 A cytokine profile resembling sHLH is associated with COVID-19 disease severity, characterised by increased interleukin (IL)-2, IL-7, granulocyte-colony stimulating factor, interferon-γ inducible protein 10, monocyte chemoattractant protein 1, macrophage inflammatory protein 1-α, and tumour necrosis factor-α. 6 Predictors of fatality from a recent retrospective, multicentre study of 150 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wuhan, China, included elevated ferritin (mean 1297·6 ng/ml in non-survivors vs 614·0 ng/ml in survivors; p 39·4°C 49 Organomegaly None 0 Hepatomegaly or splenomegaly 23 Hepatomegaly and splenomegaly 38 Number of cytopenias * One lineage 0 Two lineages 24 Three lineages 34 Triglycerides (mmol/L) 4·0 mmol/L 64 Fibrinogen (g/L) >2·5 g/L 0 ≤2·5 g/L 30 Ferritin ng/ml 6000 ng/ml 50 Serum aspartate aminotransferase <30 IU/L 0 ≥30 IU/L 19 Haemophagocytosis on bone marrow aspirate No 0 Yes 35 Known immunosuppression † No 0 Yes 18 The Hscore 11 generates a probability for the presence of secondary HLH. HScores greater than 169 are 93% sensitive and 86% specific for HLH. Note that bone marrow haemophagocytosis is not mandatory for a diagnosis of HLH. HScores can be calculated using an online HScore calculator. 11 HLH=haemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis. * Defined as either haemoglobin concentration of 9·2 g/dL or less (≤5·71 mmol/L), a white blood cell count of 5000 white blood cells per mm3 or less, or platelet count of 110 000 platelets per mm3 or less, or all of these criteria combined. † HIV positive or receiving longterm immunosuppressive therapy (ie, glucocorticoids, cyclosporine, azathioprine).
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              Endothelial cell infection and endotheliitis in COVID-19

              Cardiovascular complications are rapidly emerging as a key threat in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) in addition to respiratory disease. The mechanisms underlying the disproportionate effect of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection on patients with cardiovascular comorbidities, however, remain incompletely understood.1, 2 SARS-CoV-2 infects the host using the angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptor, which is expressed in several organs, including the lung, heart, kidney, and intestine. ACE2 receptors are also expressed by endothelial cells. 3 Whether vascular derangements in COVID-19 are due to endothelial cell involvement by the virus is currently unknown. Intriguingly, SARS-CoV-2 can directly infect engineered human blood vessel organoids in vitro. 4 Here we demonstrate endothelial cell involvement across vascular beds of different organs in a series of patients with COVID-19 (further case details are provided in the appendix). Patient 1 was a male renal transplant recipient, aged 71 years, with coronary artery disease and arterial hypertension. The patient's condition deteriorated following COVID-19 diagnosis, and he required mechanical ventilation. Multisystem organ failure occurred, and the patient died on day 8. Post-mortem analysis of the transplanted kidney by electron microscopy revealed viral inclusion structures in endothelial cells (figure A, B ). In histological analyses, we found an accumulation of inflammatory cells associated with endothelium, as well as apoptotic bodies, in the heart, the small bowel (figure C) and lung (figure D). An accumulation of mononuclear cells was found in the lung, and most small lung vessels appeared congested. Figure Pathology of endothelial cell dysfunction in COVID-19 (A, B) Electron microscopy of kidney tissue shows viral inclusion bodies in a peritubular space and viral particles in endothelial cells of the glomerular capillary loops. Aggregates of viral particles (arrow) appear with dense circular surface and lucid centre. The asterisk in panel B marks peritubular space consistent with capillary containing viral particles. The inset in panel B shows the glomerular basement membrane with endothelial cell and a viral particle (arrow; about 150 nm in diameter). (C) Small bowel resection specimen of patient 3, stained with haematoxylin and eosin. Arrows point to dominant mononuclear cell infiltrates within the intima along the lumen of many vessels. The inset of panel C shows an immunohistochemical staining of caspase 3 in small bowel specimens from serial section of tissue described in panel D. Staining patterns were consistent with apoptosis of endothelial cells and mononuclear cells observed in the haematoxylin-eosin-stained sections, indicating that apoptosis is induced in a substantial proportion of these cells. (D) Post-mortem lung specimen stained with haematoxylin and eosin showed thickened lung septa, including a large arterial vessel with mononuclear and neutrophilic infiltration (arrow in upper inset). The lower inset shows an immunohistochemical staining of caspase 3 on the same lung specimen; these staining patterns were consistent with apoptosis of endothelial cells and mononuclear cells observed in the haematoxylin-eosin-stained sections. COVID-19=coronavirus disease 2019. Patient 2 was a woman, aged 58 years, with diabetes, arterial hypertension, and obesity. She developed progressive respiratory failure due to COVID-19 and subsequently developed multi-organ failure and needed renal replacement therapy. On day 16, mesenteric ischaemia prompted removal of necrotic small intestine. Circulatory failure occurred in the setting of right heart failure consequent to an ST-segment elevation myocardial infarction, and cardiac arrest resulted in death. Post-mortem histology revealed lymphocytic endotheliitis in lung, heart, kidney, and liver as well as liver cell necrosis. We found histological evidence of myocardial infarction but no sign of lymphocytic myocarditis. Histology of the small intestine showed endotheliitis (endothelialitis) of the submucosal vessels. Patient 3 was a man, aged 69 years, with hypertension who developed respiratory failure as a result of COVID-19 and required mechanical ventilation. Echocardiography showed reduced left ventricular ejection fraction. Circulatory collapse ensued with mesenteric ischaemia, and small intestine resection was performed, but the patient survived. Histology of the small intestine resection revealed prominent endotheliitis of the submucosal vessels and apoptotic bodies (figure C). We found evidence of direct viral infection of the endothelial cell and diffuse endothelial inflammation. Although the virus uses ACE2 receptor expressed by pneumocytes in the epithelial alveolar lining to infect the host, thereby causing lung injury, the ACE2 receptor is also widely expressed on endothelial cells, which traverse multiple organs. 3 Recruitment of immune cells, either by direct viral infection of the endothelium or immune-mediated, can result in widespread endothelial dysfunction associated with apoptosis (figure D). The vascular endothelium is an active paracrine, endocrine, and autocrine organ that is indispensable for the regulation of vascular tone and the maintenance of vascular homoeostasis. 5 Endothelial dysfunction is a principal determinant of microvascular dysfunction by shifting the vascular equilibrium towards more vasoconstriction with subsequent organ ischaemia, inflammation with associated tissue oedema, and a pro-coagulant state. 6 Our findings show the presence of viral elements within endothelial cells and an accumulation of inflammatory cells, with evidence of endothelial and inflammatory cell death. These findings suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection facilitates the induction of endotheliitis in several organs as a direct consequence of viral involvement (as noted with presence of viral bodies) and of the host inflammatory response. In addition, induction of apoptosis and pyroptosis might have an important role in endothelial cell injury in patients with COVID-19. COVID-19-endotheliitis could explain the systemic impaired microcirculatory function in different vascular beds and their clinical sequelae in patients with COVID-19. This hypothesis provides a rationale for therapies to stabilise the endothelium while tackling viral replication, particularly with anti-inflammatory anti-cytokine drugs, ACE inhibitors, and statins.7, 8, 9, 10, 11 This strategy could be particularly relevant for vulnerable patients with pre-existing endothelial dysfunction, which is associated with male sex, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and established cardiovascular disease, all of which are associated with adverse outcomes in COVID-19.

                Author and article information

                Front Immunol
                Front Immunol
                Front. Immunol.
                Frontiers in Immunology
                Frontiers Media S.A.
                20 September 2021
                20 September 2021
                : 12
                : 728896
                [1] 1Medical Research Core Facility and Platforms (MRCFP), King Abdullah International Medical Research Center/King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences (KSAU-HS), King Abdulaziz Medical City (KAMC), National Guard Health Affairs (NGHA) , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
                [2] 2Department of Clinical Laboratory Sciences, King Saud bin Abdulaziz University for Health Sciences , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
                [3] 3Department of Human and Molecular Genetics, School of Medicine, Virginia Commonwealth University , Richmond, VA, United States
                [4] 4Department of Pediatrics, King Abdulaziz Medical City, King Abdullah Specialized Children’s Hospital , Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
                Author notes

                Edited by: Martin Herrmann, University Hospital Erlangen, Germany

                Reviewed by: Girdhari Lal, National Centre for Cell Science, India; Dong-Yun Ouyang, Jinan University, China

                This article was submitted to Molecular Innate Immunity, a section of the journal Frontiers in Immunology

                Copyright © 2021 Barhoumi, Alghanem, Shaibah, Mansour, Alamri, Akiel, Alroqi and Boudjelal

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

                : 27 June 2021
                : 30 August 2021
                Page count
                Figures: 7, Tables: 0, Equations: 0, References: 63, Pages: 13, Words: 5936
                Funded by: King Abdullah International Medical Research Center , doi 10.13039/501100013302;
                Award ID: RC20/153/R, 2020, RC18/171/R
                Original Research

                sars-cov-2,spike protein,monocyte/macrophages,inflammation,angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor,ros,huvec cells


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