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Front Immunol ; 13: 968991, 2022.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2022753


Background: SARS-CoV-2 induces a spectrum of clinical conditions ranging from asymptomatic infection to life threatening severe disease. Host microRNAs have been involved in the cytokine storm driven by SARS-CoV-2 infection and proposed as candidate biomarkers for COVID-19. Methods: To discover signatures of circulating miRNAs associated with COVID-19, disease severity and mortality, small RNA-sequencing was performed on serum samples collected from 89 COVID-19 patients (34 severe, 29 moderate, 26 mild) at hospital admission and from 45 healthy controls (HC). To search for possible sources of miRNAs, investigation of differentially expressed (DE) miRNAs in relevant human cell types in vitro. Results: COVID-19 patients showed upregulation of miRNAs associated with lung disease, vascular damage and inflammation and downregulation of miRNAs that inhibit pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, angiogenesis, and stress response. Compared with mild/moderate disease, patients with severe COVID-19 had a miRNA signature indicating a profound impairment of innate and adaptive immune responses, inflammation, lung fibrosis and heart failure. A subset of the DE miRNAs predicted mortality. In particular, a combination of high serum miR-22-3p and miR-21-5p, which target antiviral response genes, and low miR-224-5p and miR-155-5p, targeting pro-inflammatory factors, discriminated severe from mild/moderate COVID-19 (AUROC 0.88, 95% CI 0.80-0.95, p<0.0001), while high leukocyte count and low levels of miR-1-3p, miR-23b-3p, miR-141-3p, miR-155-5p and miR-4433b-5p predicted mortality with high sensitivity and specificity (AUROC 0.95, 95% CI 0.89-1.00, p<0.0001). In vitro experiments showed that some of the DE miRNAs were modulated directly by SARS-CoV-2 infection in permissive lung epithelial cells. Conclusions: We discovered circulating miRNAs associated with COVID-19 severity and mortality. The identified DE miRNAs provided clues on COVID-19 pathogenesis, highlighting signatures of impaired interferon and antiviral responses, inflammation, organ damage and cardiovascular failure as associated with severe disease and death.

COVID-19 , Circulating MicroRNA , MicroRNAs , Antiviral Agents , Humans , Inflammation , SARS-CoV-2 , Severity of Illness Index