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Mol Psychiatry ; 27(1): 307-314, 2022 01.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1450276


Acid sphingomyelinase (ASM) cleaves sphingomyelin into the highly lipophilic ceramide, which forms large gel-like rafts/platforms in the plasma membrane. We showed that SARS-CoV-2 uses these platforms for cell entry. Lowering the amount of ceramide or ceramide blockade due to inhibitors of ASM, genetic downregulation of ASM, anti-ceramide antibodies or degradation by neutral ceramidase protected against infection with SARS-CoV-2. The addition of ceramide restored infection with SARS-CoV-2. Many clinically approved medications functionally inhibit ASM and are called FIASMAs (functional inhibitors of acid sphingomyelinase). The FIASMA fluvoxamine showed beneficial effects on COVID-19 in a randomized prospective study and a prospective open-label real-world study. Retrospective and observational studies showed favorable effects of FIASMA antidepressants including fluoxetine, and the FIASMA hydroxyzine on the course of COVID-19. The ASM/ceramide system provides a framework for a better understanding of the infection of cells by SARS-CoV-2 and the clinical, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory effects of functional inhibitors of ASM. This framework also supports the development of new drugs or the repurposing of "old" drugs against COVID-19.

COVID-19 , Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase , Ceramides/metabolism , Humans , Prospective Studies , Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic , Retrospective Studies , SARS-CoV-2 , Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase/genetics
J Biol Chem ; 296: 100701, 2021.
Article in English | MEDLINE | ID: covidwho-1198856


The acid sphingomyelinase/ceramide system has been shown to be important for cellular infection with at least some viruses, for instance, rhinovirus or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). Functional inhibition of the acid sphingomyelinase using tricyclic antidepressants prevented infection of epithelial cells, for instance with SARS-CoV-2. The structure of ambroxol, that is, trans-4-[(2,4-dibromanilin-6-yl)-methyamino]-cyclohexanol, a mucolytic drug applied by inhalation, suggests that the drug might inhibit the acid sphingomyelinase and thereby infection with SARS-CoV-2. To test this, we used vesicular stomatitis virus pseudoviral particles presenting SARS-CoV-2 spike protein on their surface (pp-VSV-SARS-CoV-2 spike), a bona fide system for mimicking SARS-CoV-2 entry into cells. Viral uptake and formation of ceramide localization were determined by fluorescence microscopy, activity of the acid sphingomyelinase by consumption of [14C]sphingomyelin and ceramide was quantified by a kinase method. We found that entry of pp-VSV-SARS-CoV-2 spike required activation of acid sphingomyelinase and release of ceramide, events that were all prevented by pretreatment with ambroxol. We also obtained nasal epithelial cells from human volunteers prior to and after inhalation of ambroxol. Inhalation of ambroxol reduced acid sphingomyelinase activity in nasal epithelial cells and prevented pp-VSV-SARS-CoV-2 spike-induced acid sphingomyelinase activation, ceramide release, and entry of pp-VSV-SARS-CoV-2 spike ex vivo. The addition of purified acid sphingomyelinase or C16 ceramide restored entry of pp-VSV-SARS-CoV-2 spike into ambroxol-treated epithelial cells. We propose that ambroxol might be suitable for clinical studies to prevent coronavirus disease 2019.

Ambroxol/pharmacology , Antiviral Agents/pharmacology , SARS-CoV-2/drug effects , Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase/genetics , Vesiculovirus/drug effects , Virus Internalization/drug effects , Administration, Inhalation , Animals , Biological Transport , Ceramides/metabolism , Chlorocebus aethiops , Drug Repositioning , Epithelial Cells/drug effects , Epithelial Cells/enzymology , Epithelial Cells/virology , Expectorants , Gene Expression , Humans , Primary Cell Culture , Reassortant Viruses/drug effects , Reassortant Viruses/physiology , SARS-CoV-2/physiology , Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase/antagonists & inhibitors , Sphingomyelin Phosphodiesterase/metabolism , Sphingomyelins/metabolism , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/genetics , Spike Glycoprotein, Coronavirus/metabolism , Vero Cells , Vesiculovirus/physiology