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Antioxidants (Basel) ; 11(7)2022 Jul 14.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1938674


SARS-CoV-2 infection can cause a severe respiratory distress syndrome with inflammatory and thrombotic complications, the severity of which increases with patients' age and presence of comorbidity. The reasons for an age-dependent increase in the risk of severe COVID-19 could be many. These include defects in the homeostatic processes that control the cellular redox and its pivotal role in sustaining the immuno-inflammatory response to the host and the protection against oxidative stress and tissue degeneration. Pathogens may take advantage of such age-dependent abnormalities. Alterations of the thiol redox balance in the lung tissue and lining fluids may influence the risk of infection, and the host capability to respond to pathogens and to avoid severe complications. SARS-CoV-2, likewise other viruses, such as HIV, influenza, and HSV, benefits in its replication cycle of pro-oxidant conditions that the same viral infection seems to induce in the host cell with mechanisms that remain poorly understood. We recently demonstrated that the pro-oxidant effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection are associated with changes in the cellular metabolism and transmembrane fluxes of Cys and GSH. These appear to be the consequence of an increased use of Cys in viral protein synthesis and to ER stress pathway activation that interfere with transcription factors, as Nrf2 and NFkB, important to coordinate the metabolism of GSH with other aspects of the stress response and with the pro-inflammatory effects of this virus in the host cell. This narrative review article describes these cellular and molecular aspects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, and the role that antivirals and cytoprotective agents such as N-acetyl cysteine may have to limit the cytopathic effects of this virus and to recover tissue homeostasis after infection.

Redox Biol ; 45: 102041, 2021 09.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1263367


Viral infections sustain their replication cycle promoting a pro-oxidant environment in the host cell. In this context, specific alterations of the levels and homeostatic function of the tripeptide glutathione have been reported to play a causal role in the pro-oxidant and cytopathic effects (CPE) of the virus. In this study, these aspects were investigated for the first time in SARS-CoV2-infected Vero E6 cells, a reliable and well-characterized in vitro model of this infection. SARS-CoV2 markedly decreased the levels of cellular thiols, essentially lowering the reduced form of glutathione (GSH). Such an important defect occurred early in the CPE process (in the first 24 hpi). Thiol analysis in N-acetyl-Cys (NAC)-treated cells and membrane transporter expression data demonstrated that both a lowered uptake of the GSH biosynthesis precursor Cys and an increased efflux of cellular thiols, could play a role in this context. Increased levels of oxidized glutathione (GSSG) and protein glutathionylation were also observed along with upregulation of the ER stress marker PERK. The antiviral drugs Remdesivir (Rem) and Nelfinavir (Nel) influenced these changes at different levels, essentially confirming the importance or blocking viral replication to prevent GSH depletion in the host cell. Accordingly, Nel, the most potent antiviral in our in vitro study, produced a timely activation of Nrf2 transcription factor and a GSH enhancing response that synergized with NAC to restore GSH levels in the infected cells. Despite poor in vitro antiviral potency and GSH enhancing function, Rem treatment was found to prevent the SARS-CoV2-induced glutathionylation of cellular proteins. In conclusion, SARS-CoV2 infection impairs the metabolism of cellular glutathione. NAC and the antiviral Nel can prevent such defect in vitro.

COVID-19 , Glutathione , Glutathione/metabolism , Glutathione Disulfide/metabolism , Humans , Oxidation-Reduction , RNA, Viral , SARS-CoV-2
Redox Biol ; 41: 101902, 2021 05.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1087240


SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) infection can cause a severe respiratory distress syndrome. The risk of severe manifestations and mortality characteristically increase in the elderly and in the presence of non-COVID-19 comorbidity. We and others previously demonstrated that the low molecular weight (LMW) and protein thiol/disulfide ratio declines in human plasma with age and such decline is even more rapid in the case of inflammatory and premature aging diseases, which are also associated with the most severe complications of COVID-19 infection. The same decline with age of the LMW thiol/disulfide ratio observed in plasma appears to occur in the extracellular fluids of the respiratory tract and in association with many pulmonary diseases that characteristically reduce the concentrations and adaptive stress response of the lung glutathione. Early evidence in literature suggests that the thiol to disulfide balance of critical Cys residues of the COVID-19 spike protein and the ACE-2 receptor may influence the risk of infection and the severity of the disease, with a more oxidizing environment producing the worst prognosis. With this hypothesis paper we propose that the age-dependent decline of LMW thiol/disulfide ratio of the extracellular fluids, could play a role in promoting the physical (protein-protein) interaction of CoV-2 and the host cell in the airways. Therefore, this redox-dependent interaction is expected to affect the risk of severe infection in an age-dependent manner. The hypothesis can be verified in experimental models of in vitro CoV-2 infection and at the clinical level in that LMW thiols and protein thiolation can now be investigated with standardized, reliable and versatile laboratory protocols. Presenting the verification strategy of our hypothesis, we also discuss available nutritional and ancillary pharmacological strategies to intervene on the thiol/disulfide ratio of extracellular fluids of subjects at risk of infection and COVID-19 patients.

COVID-19 , Sulfhydryl Compounds , Aged , Disulfides , Humans , Oxidation-Reduction , SARS-CoV-2