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Nat Commun ; 14(1): 791, 2023 02 11.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-2243508


Prolonged lung pathology has been associated with COVID-19, yet the cellular and molecular mechanisms behind this chronic inflammatory disease are poorly understood. In this study, we combine advanced imaging and spatial transcriptomics to shed light on the local immune response in severe COVID-19. We show that activated adventitial niches are crucial microenvironments contributing to the orchestration of prolonged lung immunopathology. Up-regulation of the chemokines CCL21 and CCL18 associates to endothelial-to-mesenchymal transition and tissue fibrosis within these niches. CCL21 over-expression additionally links to the local accumulation of T cells expressing the cognate receptor CCR7. These T cells are imprinted with an exhausted phenotype and form lymphoid aggregates that can organize in ectopic lymphoid structures. Our work proposes immune-stromal interaction mechanisms promoting a self-sustained and non-resolving local immune response that extends beyond active viral infection and perpetuates tissue remodeling.

COVID-19 , Chemokine CCL21 , Chemokines, CC , Humans , COVID-19/immunology , Fibrosis , Lung , T-Lymphocytes/immunology
Eur Respir J ; 60(6)2022 Dec.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1902346


BACKGROUND: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) utilises the angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) transmembrane peptidase as cellular entry receptor. However, whether SARS-CoV-2 in the alveolar compartment is strictly ACE2-dependent and to what extent virus-induced tissue damage and/or direct immune activation determines early pathogenesis is still elusive. METHODS: Spectral microscopy, single-cell/-nucleus RNA sequencing or ACE2 "gain-of-function" experiments were applied to infected human lung explants and adult stem cell derived human lung organoids to correlate ACE2 and related host factors with SARS-CoV-2 tropism, propagation, virulence and immune activation compared to SARS-CoV, influenza and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) autopsy material was used to validate ex vivo results. RESULTS: We provide evidence that alveolar ACE2 expression must be considered scarce, thereby limiting SARS-CoV-2 propagation and virus-induced tissue damage in the human alveolus. Instead, ex vivo infected human lungs and COVID-19 autopsy samples showed that alveolar macrophages were frequently positive for SARS-CoV-2. Single-cell/-nucleus transcriptomics further revealed nonproductive virus uptake and a related inflammatory and anti-viral activation, especially in "inflammatory alveolar macrophages", comparable to those induced by SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV, but different from NL63 or influenza virus infection. CONCLUSIONS: Collectively, our findings indicate that severe lung injury in COVID-19 probably results from a macrophage-triggered immune activation rather than direct viral damage of the alveolar compartment.

COVID-19 , Influenza, Human , Adult , Humans , Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 , Lung/pathology , Macrophages, Alveolar/metabolism , Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A/metabolism , SARS-CoV-2 , Viral Tropism
Nat Neurosci ; 24(2): 168-175, 2021 02.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-952133


The newly identified severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) causes COVID-19, a pandemic respiratory disease. Moreover, thromboembolic events throughout the body, including in the CNS, have been described. Given the neurological symptoms observed in a large majority of individuals with COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 penetrance of the CNS is likely. By various means, we demonstrate the presence of SARS-CoV-2 RNA and protein in anatomically distinct regions of the nasopharynx and brain. Furthermore, we describe the morphological changes associated with infection such as thromboembolic ischemic infarction of the CNS and present evidence of SARS-CoV-2 neurotropism. SARS-CoV-2 can enter the nervous system by crossing the neural-mucosal interface in olfactory mucosa, exploiting the close vicinity of olfactory mucosal, endothelial and nervous tissue, including delicate olfactory and sensory nerve endings. Subsequently, SARS-CoV-2 appears to follow neuroanatomical structures, penetrating defined neuroanatomical areas including the primary respiratory and cardiovascular control center in the medulla oblongata.

Brain/virology , COVID-19/virology , Olfactory Mucosa/virology , SARS-CoV-2/pathogenicity , Central Nervous System , Humans , RNA, Viral/genetics , Smell/physiology , Virus Internalization