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1.
Viruses ; 14(4):705, 2022.
Article in English | MDPI | ID: covidwho-1762147

ABSTRACT

Integrins represent a gateway of entry for many viruses and the Arg-Gly-Asp (RGD) motif is the smallest sequence necessary for proteins to bind integrins. All Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Virus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) lineages own an RGD motif (aa 403–405) in their receptor binding domain (RBD). We recently showed that SARS-CoV-2 gains access into primary human lung microvascular endothelial cells (HL-mECs) lacking Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression through this conserved RGD motif. Following its entry, SARS-CoV-2 remodels cell phenotype and promotes angiogenesis in the absence of productive viral replication. Here, we highlight the αvβ3 integrin as the main molecule responsible for SARS-CoV-2 infection of HL-mECs via a clathrin-dependent endocytosis. Indeed, pretreatment of virus with αvβ3 integrin or pretreatment of cells with a monoclonal antibody against αvβ3 integrin was found to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 entry into HL-mECs. Surprisingly, the anti-Spike antibodies evoked by vaccination were neither able to impair Spike/integrin interaction nor to prevent SARS-CoV-2 entry into HL-mECs. Our data highlight the RGD motif in the Spike protein as a functional constraint aimed to maintain the interaction of the viral envelope with integrins. At the same time, our evidences call for the need of intervention strategies aimed to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 integrin-mediated infection of ACE2-negative cells in the vaccine era.

2.
J Med Virol ; 94(4): 1689-1692, 2022 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1718387

ABSTRACT

The appearance of emerging variants of SARS-CoV-2 carrying mutations into the spike protein has recently raised concern with respect to tracking their transmission and mitigating the impact in the evolving pandemic across countries. AY.4.2, a recently detected Delta variant sublineage, is considered a new variant under investigation (VUI) as it carries specific genetic signatures present in the spike protein, called Y145H and A222V. Here, using genomic epidemiology, we provide the first preliminary insight regarding the circulation of this emerging VUI in Italy.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/epidemiology , Genome, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Adolescent , Adult , Aged , COVID-19/virology , Child , Female , Genomics , Humans , Italy/epidemiology , Male , Middle Aged , Molecular Epidemiology , Mutation , Phylogeny , RNA, Viral/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Young Adult
3.
Viruses ; 13(12)2021 12 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1572669

ABSTRACT

Genotype screening was implemented in Italy and showed a significant prevalence of new SARS-CoV-2 mutants carrying Q675H mutation, near the furin cleavage site of spike protein. Currently, this mutation, which is expressed on different SARS-CoV-2 lineages circulating worldwide, has not been thoughtfully investigated. Therefore, we performed phylogenetic and biocomputational analysis to better understand SARS-CoV-2 Q675H mutants' evolutionary relationships with other circulating lineages and Q675H function in its molecular context. Our studies reveal that Q675H spike mutation is the result of parallel evolution because it arose independently in separate evolutionary clades. In silico data show that the Q675H mutation gives rise to a hydrogen-bonds network in the spike polar region. This results in an optimized directionality of arginine residues involved in interaction of spike with the furin binding pocket, thus improving proteolytic exposure of the viral protein. Furin was predicted to have a greater affinity for Q675H than Q675 substrate conformations. As a consequence, Q675H mutation could confer a fitness advantage to SARS-CoV-2 by promoting a more efficient viral entry. Interestingly, here we have shown that Q675H spike mutation is documented in all the VOCs. This finding highlights that VOCs are still evolving to enhance viral fitness and to adapt to the human host. At the same time, it may suggest Q675H spike mutation involvement in SARS-CoV-2 evolution.


Subject(s)
Furin/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Binding Sites , Genetic Fitness , Humans , Hydrogen Bonding , Molecular Dynamics Simulation , Mutation , Phylogeny , Protein Binding , Protein Conformation , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry
4.
EuropePMC; 2021.
Preprint in English | EuropePMC | ID: ppcovidwho-293346

ABSTRACT

The COVID-19 pandemic has been exacerbated by the emergence of variants of concern (VoCs). Many VoC mutations are found in the viral spike protein (S-protein), and are thus implicated in host infection and response to therapeutics. Bivalent neutralizing antibodies (nAbs) targeting the S-protein receptor-binding domain (RBD) are promising therapeutics for COVID-19, but are limited due to low potency and vulnerability to RBD mutations found in VoCs. To address these issues, we used naive phage-displayed peptide libraries to isolate and optimize 16-residue peptides that bind to the RBD or the N-terminal domain (NTD) of the S-protein. We fused these peptides to the N-terminus of a moderate affinity nAb to generate tetravalent peptide-IgG fusions, and showed that both classes of peptides were able to improve affinities for the S-protein trimer by >100-fold (apparent KD <1 pM). Critically, cell-based infection assays with a panel of six SARS-CoV-2 variants demonstrate that an RBD-binding peptide was able to enhance the neutralization potency of a high-affinity nAb >100-fold. Moreover, this peptide-IgG was able to neutralize variants that were resistant to the same nAb in the bivalent IgG format. To show that this approach is general, we fused the same peptide to a clinically approved nAb drug, and showed that it rescued neutralization against a resistant variant. Taken together, these results establish minimal peptide fusions as a modular means to greatly enhance affinities, potencies, and breadth of coverage of nAbs as therapeutics for SARS-CoV-2.

5.
J Med Virol ; 93(12): 6551-6556, 2021 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1530181

ABSTRACT

Lineage B.1.617+, also known as G/452R.V3 and now denoted by WHO with the Greek letters δ and κ, is a recently described SARS-CoV-2 variant under investigation first identified in October 2020 in India. As of May 2021, three sublineages labeled as B.1.617.1 (κ), B.1.617.2 (δ), and B.1.617.3 have been already identified, and their potential impact on the current pandemic is being studied. This variant has 13 amino acid changes, three in its spike protein, which are currently of particular concern: E484Q, L452R, and P681R. Here, we report a major effect of the mutations characterizing this lineage, represented by a marked alteration of the surface electrostatic potential (EP) of the receptor-binding domain (RBD) of the spike protein. Enhanced RBD-EP is particularly noticeable in the B.1.617.2 (δ) sublineage, which shows multiple replacements of neutral or negatively charged amino acids with positively charged amino acids. We here hypothesize that this EP change can favor the interaction between the B.1.617+ RBD and the negatively charged ACE2, thus conferring a potential increase in the virus transmission.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , COVID-19/transmission , Humans , Mutation , Protein Structure, Tertiary , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/chemistry , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Static Electricity
6.
J Med Virol ; 94(1): 413-416, 2022 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1404587

ABSTRACT

In December 2020, Italy experienced the first case of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) B.1.1.7 lineage. In January 2021, we identified 21 cases of this variant in Corzano, defining the first outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 lineage in Italy. The high transmissibility of the B.1.1.7 variant represented an important benefit for the virus, which became rapidly dominant on the territory. Containment measures induced the epidemic curve onto a decreasing trajectory underlining the importance of appropriate control and surveillance for restraint of virus spread. Highlights The first Italian outbreak of SARS-CoV-2 B.1.1.7 lineage occurred in Lombardy in January 2021. The outbreak originated by a single introduction of the B.1.1.7 lineage. The genomic sequencing revealed, for the first time, the presence of the V551F mutation in the B.1.1.7 lineage in Italy. Surveillance, prompt sequencing and tracing efforts were fundamental to identify and to quickly contain the outbreak.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Testing , COVID-19/epidemiology , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/isolation & purification , Adolescent , Adult , COVID-19/transmission , Child , Child, Preschool , Disease Outbreaks/statistics & numerical data , Female , Genome, Viral/genetics , High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing , Humans , Infection Control/methods , Italy/epidemiology , Male , Middle Aged , Phylogeny , Sequence Analysis, RNA , Whole Genome Sequencing , Young Adult
7.
Int J Environ Res Public Health ; 18(18)2021 Sep 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1405458

ABSTRACT

Different preventive public health measures were adopted globally to limit the spread of SARS-CoV-2, such as hand hygiene and the use of masks, travel restrictions, social distance actions such as the closure of schools and workplaces, case and contact tracing, quarantine and lockdown. These measures, in particular physical distancing and the use of masks, might have contributed to containing the spread of other respiratory viruses that occurs principally by contact and droplet routes. The aim of this study was to evaluate the prevalence of different respiratory viruses (influenza viruses A and B, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza viruses 1, 2, 3 and 4, rhinovirus, adenovirus, metapneumovirus and human coronaviruses) after one year of the pandemic. Furthermore, another aim was to evaluate the possible impact of these non-pharmaceutical measures on the circulation of seasonal respiratory viruses. This single center study was conducted between January 2017-February 2020 (pre-pandemic period) and March 2020-May 2021 (pandemic period). All adults >18 years with respiratory symptoms and tested for respiratory pathogens were included in the study. Nucleic acid detection of all respiratory viruses was performed by multiplex real time PCR. Our results show that the test positivity for influenza A and B, metapneumovirus, parainfluenza virus, respiratory syncytial virus and human coronaviruses decreased with statistical significance during the pandemic. Contrary to this, for adenovirus the decrease was not statistically significant. Conversely, a statistically significant increase was detected for rhinovirus. Coinfections between different respiratory viruses were observed during the pre-pandemic period, while the only coinfection detected during pandemic was between SARS-CoV-2 and rhinovirus. To understand how the preventive strategies against SARS-CoV-2 might alter the transmission dynamics and epidemic patterns of respiratory viruses is fundamental to guide future preventive recommendations.


Subject(s)
COVID-19 , Coinfection , Respiratory Tract Infections , Viruses , Adult , Coinfection/epidemiology , Communicable Disease Control , Humans , Italy/epidemiology , Pandemics , Respiratory Tract Infections/epidemiology , Retrospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2
8.
Viruses ; 13(9)2021 09 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1390787

ABSTRACT

The rapid spread of the pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus has created an unusual situation, with rapid searches for compounds to interfere with the biological processes exploited by the virus. Doxycycline, with its pleiotropic effects, including anti-viral activity, has been proposed as a therapeutic candidate for COVID-19 and about twenty clinical trials have started since the beginning of the pandemic. To gain information on the activity of doxycycline against SARS-CoV-2 infection and clarify some of the conflicting clinical data published, we designed in vitro binding tests and infection studies with a pseudotyped virus expressing the spike protein, as well as a clinically isolated SARS-CoV-2 strain. Doxycycline inhibited the transduction of the pseudotyped virus in Vero E6 and HEK-293 T cells stably expressing human receptor angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 but did not affect the entry and replication of SARS-CoV-2. Although this conclusion is apparently disappointing, it is paradigmatic of an experimental approach aimed at developing an integrated multidisciplinary platform which can shed light on the mechanisms of action of potential anti-COVID-19 compounds. To avoid wasting precious time and resources, we believe very stringent experimental criteria are needed in the preclinical phase, including infectivity studies with clinically isolated SARS-CoV-2, before moving on to (futile) clinical trials.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , Host-Pathogen Interactions , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Virus Physiological Phenomena/drug effects , Virus Replication/drug effects , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2/metabolism , Animals , COVID-19/metabolism , Cell Cycle , Chlorocebus aethiops , Doxycycline/pharmacology , HEK293 Cells , Humans , Protein Binding , SARS-CoV-2/ultrastructure , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus , Transduction, Genetic , Vero Cells
9.
Commun Biol ; 4(1): 489, 2021 04 21.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1387493

ABSTRACT

We investigated SARS-CoV-2 transmission dynamics in Italy, one of the countries hit hardest by the pandemic, using phylodynamic analysis of viral genetic and epidemiological data. We observed the co-circulation of multiple SARS-CoV-2 lineages over time, which were linked to multiple importations and characterized by large transmission clusters concomitant with a high number of infections. Subsequent implementation of a three-phase nationwide lockdown strategy greatly reduced infection numbers and hospitalizations. Yet we present evidence of sustained viral spread among sporadic clusters acting as "hidden reservoirs" during summer 2020. Mathematical modelling shows that increased mobility among residents eventually catalyzed the coalescence of such clusters, thus driving up the number of infections and initiating a new epidemic wave. Our results suggest that the efficacy of public health interventions is, ultimately, limited by the size and structure of epidemic reservoirs, which may warrant prioritization during vaccine deployment.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/transmission , Communicable Disease Control/methods , Genome, Viral/genetics , Mutation , Public Health/methods , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , COVID-19/epidemiology , COVID-19/virology , Geography , Humans , Italy/epidemiology , Pandemics , Phylogeny , Public Health/trends , SARS-CoV-2/classification , SARS-CoV-2/physiology
10.
Microorganisms ; 9(9)2021 Aug 26.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1374466

ABSTRACT

(1) Background: Acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the etiological agent for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) that has led to a pandemic that began in March 2020. The role of the SARS-CoV-2 components on innate and adaptive immunity is still unknown. We investigated the possible implication of pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs)-pattern recognition receptors (PRRs) interaction. (2) Methods: We infected Calu-3/MRC-5 multicellular spheroids (MTCSs) with a SARS-CoV-2 clinical strain and evaluated the activation of RNA sensors, transcription factors, and cytokines/interferons (IFN) secretion, by quantitative real-time PCR, immunofluorescence, and ELISA. (3) Results: Our results showed that the SARS-CoV-2 infection of Calu-3/MRC-5 multicellular spheroids induced the activation of the TLR3 and TLR7 RNA sensor pathways. In particular, TLR3 might act via IRF3, producing interleukin (IL)-1α, IL-1ß, IL-4, IL-6, and IFN-α and IFN-ß, during the first 24 h post-infection. Then, TLR3 activates the NFκB transduction pathway, leading to pro-inflammatory cytokine secretion. Conversely, TLR7 seems to mainly act via NFκB, inducing type 1 IFN, IFN-γ, and IFN-λ3, starting from the 48 h post-infection. (4) Conclusion: We showed that both TLR3 and TLR7 are involved in the control of innate immunity during lung SARS-CoV-2 infection. The activation of TLRs induced pro-inflammatory cytokines, such as IL-1α, IL-1ß, IL-4, and IL-6, as well as interferons. TLRs could be a potential target in controlling the infection in the early stages of the disease.

12.
Microorganisms ; 9(7)2021 Jul 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1295885

ABSTRACT

SARS-CoV-2-associated acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and acute lung injury are life-threatening manifestations of severe viral infection. The pathogenic mechanisms that lead to respiratory complications, such as endothelialitis, intussusceptive angiogenesis, and vascular leakage remain unclear. In this study, by using an immunofluorescence assay and in situ RNA-hybridization, we demonstrate the capability of SARS-CoV-2 to infect human primary lung microvascular endothelial cells (HL-mECs) in the absence of cytopathic effects and release of infectious particles. Preliminary data point to the role of integrins in SARS-CoV-2 entry into HL-mECs in the absence of detectable ACE2 expression. Following infection, HL-mECs were found to release a plethora of pro-inflammatory and pro-angiogenic molecules, as assessed by microarray analyses. This conditioned microenvironment stimulated HL-mECs to acquire an angiogenic phenotype. Proteome analysis confirmed a remodeling of SARS-CoV-2-infected HL-mECs to inflammatory and angiogenic responses and highlighted the expression of antiviral molecules as annexin A6 and MX1. These results support the hypothesis of a direct role of SARS-CoV-2-infected HL-mECs in sustaining vascular dysfunction during the early phases of infection. The construction of virus-host interactomes will be instrumental to identify potential therapeutic targets for COVID-19 aimed to inhibit HL-mEC-sustained inflammation and angiogenesis upon SARS-CoV-2 infection.

13.
Emerg Microbes Infect ; 10(1): 1241-1243, 2021 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1258725

ABSTRACT

In this study, we show that BNT162b2 vaccine-elicited antibodies efficiently neutralize SARS-CoV-2 authentic viruses belonging to B.1, B.1.1.7, B.1.351, B.1.525 and P.1 lineages. Interestingly, the neutralization of B.1.1.7 and B.1.525 lineages was significantly higher, whereas the neutralization of B.1.351 and P.1 lineages was robust but significantly lower as compared to B.1 lineage. Following our findings, we consider that the BNT162b2 vaccine offers protection against the current prevailing variants of SARS-CoV-2.


Subject(s)
Antibodies, Neutralizing/blood , Antibodies, Viral/blood , COVID-19 Vaccines/immunology , COVID-19/prevention & control , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , SARS-CoV-2/immunology , COVID-19/immunology , COVID-19/virology , Humans , Neutralization Tests , SARS-CoV-2/classification
14.
J Med Virol ; 93(3): 1780-1785, 2021 03.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1196484

ABSTRACT

In early 2020 the new respiratory syndrome COVID-19 (caused by the zoonotic SARS-CoV-2 virus) spread like a pandemic, starting from Wuhan, China, causing severe economic depression. Despite some advances in drug treatments of medical complications in the later stages of the disease, the pandemic's death toll is tragic, as no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment is currently available. By using a systems approach, we identify the host-encoded pathway, which provides ribonucleotides to viral RNA synthesis, as a possible target. We show that methotrexate, an FDA-approved inhibitor of purine biosynthesis, potently inhibits viral RNA replication, viral protein synthesis, and virus release. The effective antiviral methotrexate concentrations are similar to those used for established human therapies using the same drug. Methotrexate should be most effective in patients at the earliest appearance of symptoms to effectively prevent viral replication, diffusion of the infection, and possibly fatal complications.


Subject(s)
Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , COVID-19/etiology , Methotrexate/pharmacology , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Virus Replication/drug effects , Animals , COVID-19/virology , Cell Line , Chlorocebus aethiops , Pandemics/prevention & control , RNA, Viral/genetics , Vero Cells
15.
Microorganisms ; 9(3)2021 Feb 25.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1115428

ABSTRACT

BACKGROUND: COVID-19 pandemic is requesting unprecedented efforts by health-care workers (HCWs) in all countries, and especially in Italy during the first semester of 2020. METHODS: This is a retrospective, observational study conducted at the Spedali Civili General Hospital, in Brescia, Northern Italy during the SARS CoV-2 pandemic in the first semester of 2020. Serum samples from HCWs were tested for SARS-CoV-2 spike protein-specific antibodies. An online survey was used to collect demographic, clinical, and epidemiological data. RESULTS: Of the 1893 HCWs included, 433 (22.9%) were found seropositive for SARS-CoV-2 IgG. The cumulative prevalence of SARS-CoV-2 infection (antibodies production or past positive RT-PCR on nasal/throat swab) was 25.1% (475/1893). Fifty-six out of 433 (13%) seropositive participants declared to have been asymptomatic during the study period. The development of COVID-19 signs or symptoms is the main determinant of seropositivity (OR: 11.3, p < 0.0001) along with their duration and severity. 40/290 (14.5%) HCWs with documented positive RT-PCR during the study period did not show any detectable antibody response. IgG levels positively correlate with age, COVID-19-compatible signs and symptoms experienced and their duration. CONCLUSIONS: In this study, carried out in one of the most affected areas in Europe, we demonstrate that most HCWs with COVID-19 related symptoms develop a spike protein-specific antibodies with potential neutralizing effect.

19.
Cells ; 9(12)2020 12 04.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-965318

ABSTRACT

Human herpesvirus 6 (HHV-6) is a ß-herpesvirus that is highly prevalent in the human population. HHV-6 comprises two recognized species (HHV-6A and HHV-6B). Despite different cell tropism and disease association, HHV-6A/B show high genome homology and harbor the conserved U94 gene, which is limited to HHV-6 and absent in all the other human herpesviruses. U94 has key functions in the virus life cycle and associated diseases, having demonstrated or putative roles in virus replication, integration, and reactivation. During natural infection, U94 elicits an immune response, and the prevalence and extent of the anti-U94 response are associated with specific diseases. Notably, U94 can entirely reproduce some virus effects at the cell level, including inhibition of cell migration, induction of cytokines and HLA-G expression, and angiogenesis inhibition, supporting a direct U94 role in the development of HHV-6-associated diseases. Moreover, specific U94 properties, such as the ability to modulate angiogenesis pathways, have been exploited to counteract cancer development. Here, we review the information available on this key HHV-6 gene, highlighting its potential uses.


Subject(s)
Herpesvirus 6, Human/genetics , Herpesvirus 6, Human/immunology , Roseolovirus Infections/virology , Viral Proteins/physiology , Animals , Cell Line , Cell Movement , Cytokines/metabolism , Genome, Viral , HLA-G Antigens/metabolism , Humans , Immune System , Mice , Neovascularization, Pathologic , Rats , Roseolovirus Infections/epidemiology , Viral Proteins/genetics , Virus Integration , Virus Replication
20.
Biochem Biophys Res Commun ; 538: 88-91, 2021 01 29.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-912050

ABSTRACT

An acute respiratory syndrome (COVID-19), caused by a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) with a high rate of morbidity and elevate mortality, has emerged as one of the most important threats to humankind in the last centuries. Rigorous determination of SARS-CoV-2 infectivity is very difficult owing to the continuous evolution of the virus, with its single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) variants and many lineages. However, it is urgently necessary to study the virus in depth, to understand the mechanism of its pathogenicity and virulence, and to develop effective therapeutic strategies. The present contribution summarizes in a succinct way the current knowledge on the evolutionary and structural features of the virus, with the aim of clarifying its mutational pattern and its possible role in the ongoing pandemic.


Subject(s)
COVID-19/virology , Evolution, Molecular , Genome, Viral , SARS-CoV-2/genetics , Humans , Mutation , Phylogeny , SARS-CoV-2/classification
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