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Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-491266


Early stages of deadly respiratory diseases such as COVID-19 have been challenging to elucidate due to lack of an experimental system that recapitulates the cellular and structural complexity of the human lung, while allowing precise control over disease initiation and systematic interrogation of molecular events at cellular resolution. Here we show healthy human lung slices cultured ex vivo can be productively infected with SARS-CoV-2, and the cellular tropism of the virus and its distinct and dynamic effects on host cell gene expression can be determined by single cell RNA sequencing and reconstruction of "infection pseudotime" for individual lung cell types. This revealed the prominent SARS-CoV-2 target is a population of activated interstitial macrophages, which as infection proceeds accumulate thousands of viral RNA molecules per cell, comprising up to 60% of the cellular transcriptome and including canonical and novel subgenomic RNAs. During viral takeover, there is cell-autonomous induction of a specific host interferon program and seven chemokines (CCL2, 7, 8, 13, CXCL10) and cytokines (IL6, IL10), distinct from the response of alveolar macrophages in which neither viral takeover nor induction of a substantial inflammatory response occurs. Using a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 Spike-pseudotyped lentivirus, we show that entry into purified human lung macrophages depends on Spike but is not blocked by cytochalasin D or by an ACE2-competing monoclonal antibody, indicating a phagocytosis- and ACE2-independent route of entry. These results provide a molecular characterization of the initiation of COVID-19 in human lung tissue, identify activated interstitial macrophages as a prominent site of viral takeover and focus of inflammation, and suggest targeting of these macrophages and their signals as a new therapeutic modality for COVID-19 pneumonia and progression to ARDS. Our approach can be generalized to define the initiation program and evaluate therapeutics for any human lung infection at cellular resolution.

Christoph Muus; Malte D Luecken; Gokcen Eraslan; Avinash Waghray; Graham Heimberg; Lisa Sikkema; Yoshihiko Kobayashi; Eeshit Dhaval Vaishnav; Ayshwarya Subramanian; Christopher Smillie; Karthik Jagadeesh; Elizabeth Thu Duong; Evgenij Fiskin; Elena Torlai Triglia; Christophe Becavin; Meshal Ansari; Peiwen Cai; Brian Lin; Justin Buchanan; Jian Shu; Adam L Haber; Hattie Chung; Daniel T Montoro; Taylor Adams; Hananeh Aliee; Samuel J Allon; Zaneta Andrusivova; Ilias Angelidis; Orr Ashenberg; Kevin Bassler; Inbal Benhar; Joseph Bergenstrahle; Ludvig Bergenstrahle; Liam Bolt; Emelie Braun; Linh T Bui; Mark Chaffin; Evgeny Chichelnitskiy; Joshua Chiou; Thomas M Conlon; Michael S Cuoco; Marie Deprez; David S Fischer; Astrid Gillich; Joshua Gould; Austin J Gutierrez; Arun C Habermann; Tyler Harvey; Peng He; Xiaomeng Hou; Lijuan Hu; Alok Jaiswal; Peiyong Jiang; Theodoros Kapellos; Christin S Kuo; Ludvig Larsson; Michael A Leney-Greene; Kyungtae Lim; Monika Litvinukova; Ji Lu; Leif S Ludwig; Wendy Luo; Henrike Maatz; Elo Maddissoon; Lira Mamanova; Kasidet Manakongtreecheep; Ian Mbano; Alexi M McAdams; Ross J Metzger; Ahmad N Nabhan; Sarah K Nyquist; Jose Ordovas-Montanes; Lolita Penland; Olivier B Poirion; Segio Poli; CanCan Qi; Daniel Reichart; Ivan Rosas; Jonas Schupp; Rahul Sinha; Rene V Sit; Kamil Slowikowski; Michal Slyper; Neal Smith; Alex Sountoulidis; Maximilian Strunz; Dawei Sun; Carlos Talavera-Lopez; Peng Tan; Jessica Tantivit; Kyle J Travaglini; Nathan R Tucker; Katherine Vernon; Marc H Wadsworth III; Julia Waldman; Xiuting Wang; Wenjun Yan; Ali Onder Yildirim; William Zhao; Carly G K Ziegler; Aviv Regev; - The NHLBI LungMAP Consortium; - The Human Cell Atlas Lung Biological Network.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppbiorxiv-049254


The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, creates an urgent need for identifying molecular mechanisms that mediate viral entry, propagation, and tissue pathology. Cell membrane bound angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and associated proteases, transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2) and Cathepsin L (CTSL), were previously identified as mediators of SARS-CoV2 cellular entry. Here, we assess the cell type-specific RNA expression of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and CTSL through an integrated analysis of 107 single-cell and single-nucleus RNA-Seq studies, including 22 lung and airways datasets (16 unpublished), and 85 datasets from other diverse organs. Joint expression of ACE2 and the accessory proteases identifies specific subsets of respiratory epithelial cells as putative targets of viral infection in the nasal passages, airways, and alveoli. Cells that co-express ACE2 and proteases are also identified in cells from other organs, some of which have been associated with COVID-19 transmission or pathology, including gut enterocytes, corneal epithelial cells, cardiomyocytes, heart pericytes, olfactory sustentacular cells, and renal epithelial cells. Performing the first meta-analyses of scRNA-seq studies, we analyzed 1,176,683 cells from 282 nasal, airway, and lung parenchyma samples from 164 donors spanning fetal, childhood, adult, and elderly age groups, associate increased levels of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and CTSL in specific cell types with increasing age, male gender, and smoking, all of which are epidemiologically linked to COVID-19 susceptibility and outcomes. Notably, there was a particularly low expression of ACE2 in the few young pediatric samples in the analysis. Further analysis reveals a gene expression program shared by ACE2+TMPRSS2+ cells in nasal, lung and gut tissues, including genes that may mediate viral entry, subtend key immune functions, and mediate epithelial-macrophage cross-talk. Amongst these are IL6, its receptor and co-receptor, IL1R, TNF response pathways, and complement genes. Cell type specificity in the lung and airways and smoking effects were conserved in mice. Our analyses suggest that differences in the cell type-specific expression of mediators of SARS-CoV-2 viral entry may be responsible for aspects of COVID-19 epidemiology and clinical course, and point to putative molecular pathways involved in disease susceptibility and pathogenesis.