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biorxiv; 2022.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2022.01.14.475727


Obesity is common and associated with more severe COVID-19, proposed to be in part related to an adipokine-driven pro-inflammatory state. Here we analysed single cell transcriptomes from bronchiolar lavage in three adult cohorts, comparing obese (Ob, body mass index (BMI) >30m2) and non-obese (N-Ob, BMI <30m2). Surprisingly, we found that Ob subjects had attenuated lung immune/inflammatory responses in SARS-CoV-2 infection, with decreased expression of interferon (IFN), IFN{gamma} and tumour necrosis factor (TNF) alpha response gene signatures in almost all lung epithelial and immune cell subsets, and lower expression of IFNG and TNF in specific lung immune cells. Analysis of peripheral blood immune cells in an independent adult cohort showed a similar, but less marked, reduction in type I IFN and IFN{gamma} response genes, as well as decreased serum IFN in Ob patients with SARS-CoV-2. Nasal immune cells from Ob children with COVID-19 also showed reduced enrichment of IFN and IFN{gamma} response genes. Altogether, these findings show blunted tissue immune responses in Ob COVID-19 patients, with clinical implications.

Obesity , Necrosis , COVID-19
biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.12.20.473523


Although tropism of SARS-CoV-2 for respiratory tract epithelial cells is well established, an open question is whether the conjunctival epithelium is also a target for SARS-CoV-2. Conjunctival epithelial cells, which express viral entry receptors ACE2 and TMPRSS2, constitute the largest exposed epithelium of the ocular surface tissue, and may represent a relevant viral entry route. To address this question, we generated an organotypic air-liquid-interface model of conjunctival epithelium, composed of progenitor, basal and superficial epithelial cells and fibroblasts, which could be maintained successfully up to day 75 of differentiation. Using single-cell RNA Seq, with complementary imaging and virological assays, we observed that while all conjunctival cell types were permissive to SARS-CoV-2 genome expression, a productive infection did not ensue. The early innate immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection in conjunctival cells was characterised by a robust autocrine and paracrine NF-K{beta} activity, without activation of antiviral interferon signalling. Collectively, these data enrich our understanding of SARS-CoV-2 infection at the human ocular surface, with potential implications for the design of preventive strategies and conjunctival transplants.

biorxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.09.01.457774


Common genetic variants modulate the cellular response to viruses and are implicated in a range of immune pathologies, including infectious and autoimmune diseases. The transcriptional antiviral response is known to vary between infected cells from a single individual, yet how genetic variants across individuals modulate the antiviral response (and its cell-to-cell variability) is not well understood. Here, we triggered the antiviral response in human fibroblasts from 68 healthy donors, and profiled tens of thousands of cells using single-cell RNA-seq. We developed GASPACHO (GAuSsian Processes for Association mapping leveraging Cell HeterOgeneity), the first statistical approach designed to identify dynamic eQTLs across a transcriptional trajectory of cell populations, without aggregating single-cell data into pseudo-bulk. This allows us to uncover the underlying architecture and variability of antiviral response across responding cells, and to identify more than two thousands eQTLs modulating the dynamic changes during this response. Many of these eQTLs colocalise with risk loci identified in GWAS of infectious and autoimmune diseases. As a case study, we focus on a COVID-19 susceptibility locus, colocalised with the antiviral OAS1 splicing QTL. We validated it in blood cells from a patient cohort and in the infected nasal cells of a patient with the risk allele, demonstrating the utility of GASPACHO to fine-map and functionally characterise a genetic locus. In summary, our novel analytical approach provides a new framework for delineation of the genetic variants that shape a wide spectrum of transcriptional responses at single-cell resolution.

Autoimmune Diseases , COVID-19
medrxiv; 2021.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2021.01.13.21249725


The COVID-19 pandemic, caused by SARS coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has resulted in excess morbidity and mortality as well as economic decline. To characterise the systemic host immune response to SARS-CoV-2, we performed single-cell RNA-sequencing coupled with analysis of cell surface proteins, providing molecular profiling of over 800,000 peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a cohort of 130 patients with COVID-19. Our cohort, from three UK centres, spans the spectrum of clinical presentations and disease severities ranging from asymptomatic to critical. Three control groups were included: healthy volunteers, patients suffering from a non-COVID-19 severe respiratory illness and healthy individuals administered with intravenous lipopolysaccharide to model an acute inflammatory response. Full single cell transcriptomes coupled with quantification of 188 cell surface proteins, and T and B lymphocyte antigen receptor repertoires have provided several insights into COVID-19: 1. a new non-classical monocyte state that sequesters platelets and replenishes the alveolar macrophage pool; 2. platelet activation accompanied by early priming towards megakaryopoiesis in immature haematopoietic stem/progenitor cells and expansion of megakaryocyte-primed progenitors; 3. increased clonally expanded CD8+ effector:effector memory T cells, and proliferating CD4+ and CD8+ T cells in patients with more severe disease; and 4. relative increase of IgA plasmablasts in asymptomatic stages that switches to expansion of IgG plasmablasts and plasma cells, accompanied with higher incidence of BCR sharing, as disease severity increases. All data and analysis results are available for interrogation and data mining through an intuitive web portal. Together, these data detail the cellular processes present in peripheral blood during an acute immune response to COVID-19, and serve as a template for multi-omic single cell data integration across multiple centers to rapidly build powerful resources to help combat diseases such as COVID-19.

Adenocarcinoma, Bronchiolo-Alveolar , Respiratory Insufficiency , COVID-19