SARS-CoV-2 spike protein promotes IL-6 transsignaling by activation of angiotensin II receptor signaling in epithelial cells

Tapas Patra, Keith Meyer, Lizzie Geerling, T. Scott Isbell, Daniel F. Hoft, James Brien, Amelia K. Pinto, Ratna B. Ray, Ranjit Ray

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cytokine storm is suggested as one of the major pathological characteristics of SARS-CoV- 2 infection, although the mechanism for initiation of a hyper-inflammatory response, and multi-organ damage from viral infection is poorly understood. In this virus-cell interaction study, we observed that SARS-CoV-2 infection or viral spike protein expression alone inhibited angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor protein expression. The spike protein promoted an angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1) mediated signaling cascade, induced the transcriptional regulatory molecules NF-κB and AP-1/c-Fos via MAPK activation, and increased IL-6 release. SARS-CoV-2 infected patient sera contained elevated levels of IL-6 and soluble IL-6R. Up-regulated AT1 receptor signaling also influenced the release of extracellular soluble IL-6R by the induction of the ADAM-17 protease. Use of the AT1 receptor antagonist, Candesartan cilexetil, resulted in down-regulation of IL-6/soluble IL-6R release in spike expressing cells. Phosphorylation of STAT3 at the Tyr705 residue plays an important role as a transcriptional inducer for SOCS3 and MCP-1 expression. Further study indicated that inhibition of STAT3 Tyr705 phosphorylation in SARS-CoV-2 infected and viral spike protein expressing epithelial cells did not induce SOCS3 and MCP-1 expression. Introduction of culture supernatant from SARS-CoV-2 spike expressing cells on a model human liver endothelial cell line (TMNK-1), where transmembrane IL-6R is poorly expressed, resulted in the induction of STAT3 Tyr705 phosphorylation as well as MCP-1 expression. In conclusion, our results indicated that the presence of SARS-CoV-2 spike protein in epithelial cells promotes IL-6 trans-signaling by activation of the AT1 axis to initiate coordination of a hyper-inflammatory response.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009128
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Volume16
Issue number12
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 7 2020

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Patra et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology

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