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biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.12.23.424177


Identification of transcriptional regulatory mechanisms and signaling networks involved in the response of host to infection by SARS-CoV-2 is a powerful approach that provides a systems biology view of gene expression programs involved in COVID-19 and may enable identification of novel therapeutic targets and strategies to mitigate the impact of this disease. In this study, we combined a series of recently developed computational tools to identify transcriptional regulatory networks involved in the response of epithelial cells to infection by SARS-CoV-2, and particularly regulatory mechanisms that are specific to this virus. In addition, using network-guided analyses, we identified signaling pathways that are associated with these networks and kinases that may regulate them. The results identified classical antiviral response pathways including Interferon response factors (IRFs), interferons (IFNs), and JAK-STAT signaling as key elements upregulated by SARS-CoV-2 in comparison to mock-treated cells. In addition, comparing SARS-Cov-2 infection of airway epithelial cells to other respiratory viruses identified pathways associated with regulation of inflammation (MAPK14) and immunity (BTK, MBX) that may contribute to exacerbate organ damage linked with complications of COVID-19. The regulatory networks identified herein reflect a combination of experimentally validated hits and novel pathways supporting the computational pipeline to quickly narrow down promising avenue of investigations when facing an emerging and novel disease such as COVID-19.

Inflammation , COVID-19
medrxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.12.19.20243428


Background: Surveillance of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infections is essential for the global containment measures with regard to the ongoing pandemic. Diagnostic gold standard is currently reverse transcription of the (+)RNA genome and subgenomic RNAs and subsequent quantitative polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR) from nasopharyngeal swabs or bronchoalveolar lavages. In order to further improve the diagnostic accuracy, particularly for the reliable discrimination between negative and false-negative specimens, we propose the combination of the RT-qPCR workflow with subsequent pyrosequencing of a S-gene amplicon. This extension might add important value mainly in cases with low SARS-CoV-2 load, where RT-qPCR alone can deliver conflicting results. Results: We successfully established a combined RT-qPCR and S-gene pyrosequencing method. This method can be optionally exploited after routine diagnostics or for epidemiologic studies allowing a more reliable interpretation of conflicting RT-qPCR results. This may occur in specimens with relatively low viral loads and close to the detection limits of qPCR, practically for CT values >30. After laboratory implementation and characterization of a best practice protocol we tested the combined method in a field study on a large pediatric cohort from two German medical centers (n=769). Pyrosequencing after RT-qPCR enabled us to uncover previously unrecognized cases of pediatric COVID-19 spectrum diseases, partially exhibiting unusual and heterogeneous presentation. Moreover, it is notable that in the course of RT-qPCR/pyrosequencing method establishment when routinely confirmed SARS-CoV-2-positive specimens were used we did not observe any case of false-positive diagnosis. Conclusions: The proposed protocol allows a specific and sensitive detection of SARS-CoV-2 close to the detection limits of RT-qPCR. Combined RT-qPCR/pyrosequencing does not negatively affect preceding RT-qPCR pipeline in SARS-CoV-2 diagnostics and can be optionally applied in routine to inspect conflicting RT-qPCR results.

COVID-19 , Coronavirus Infections
biorxiv; 2020.
Preprint in English | bioRxiv | ID: ppzbmed-10.1101.2020.12.22.422953


The Membrane Associated RING-CH (MARCH) proteins belong to a family of E3 ubiquitin ligases, whose main function is to remove transmembrane proteins from the plasma membrane. Recent work has shown that the human MARCH1, 2 and 8 are antiretroviral factors that target the Human Immunodeficiency virus-1 (HIV-1) envelope glycoproteins by reducing their incorporation in the budding virions. Nevertheless, the dearth of information regarding the antiviral mechanism of this family of proteins necessitates further examination. In this study, using both the human MARCH proteins and their mouse homologues, we provide a comprehensive analysis of the antiretroviral mechanism of this family of proteins. Moreover, we show that human MARCH proteins restrict to varying degrees the envelope glycoproteins of a diverse number of viruses. This report sheds light on the important antiviral function of MARCH proteins and their significance in cell intrinsic immunity.