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Preprint in English | medRxiv | ID: ppmedrxiv-22269723


BackgroundAcute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) with COVID-19 is aggravated by hyperinflammatory responses even after the peak of viral load has passed; however, its underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Alveolar epithelial injury is reported to be a very early event in ARDS with COVID-19. Herein, we assessed whether necrosis of alveolar epithelial cells and subsequent releases of damage associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) at an early disease stage aggravates ARDS with COVID-19 MethodsWe analyzed the levels of cytokeratin18-M65, an epithelial total cell death marker; CK18-M30, an epithelial apoptosis-specific marker; and HMGB-1, one of the DAMPs released from necrotic cells, in patients with COVID-19 with and without ARDS and healthy adults, in addition to the circulating alveolar epithelial and endothelial injury markers, namely sRAGE, angiopoietin-2, and surfactant protein-D. Molecular mechanisms of alveolar epithelial cell death and effects of neutralization on alveolar tissue injury were assessed using a mouse model mimicking COVID-19-induced ARDS. ResultsCOVID-19-induced ARDS was characterized by the elevation of sRAGE, an epithelial injury marker, at a very early disease stage. Although both serum levels of CK18-M65 and CK18-M30 were elevated in COVID-19-induced ARDS, the median CK18-M30/M65 ratio, an indicator of the fraction of apoptosis among total epithelial cell death, was 31.5% in serum from COVID-19 patients with ARDS, a value significantly lower than that of non-ARDS patients or healthy subjects. Moreover, the median M30/M65 ratio in bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) in COVID-19-induced ARDS was 27.8%, indicating that alveolar epithelial cell death is mainly caused by necrosis. Serum levels of HMGB-1 were also significantly elevated in ARDS versus non-ARDS patients. In a mouse model mimicking COVID-19-induced ARDS, the ratio of CK18-M30 to a total epithelial cell death marker in BALF was also lower than that in control subjects. Moreover, the alveolar epithelial cell necrosis involved two forms of programmed necrosis: necroptosis and pyroptosis. Finally, neutralization of HMGB-1 attenuated alveolar tissue injury in the mouse model. ConclusionsNecrosis, including necroptosis and pyroptosis, seems to be the primary form of alveolar epithelial cell death and subsequent release of DAMPs is a potential driver of COVID-19-induced ARDS.