Platelet gene expression and function in patients with COVID-19

Blood. 2020 Sep 10;136(11):1317-1329. doi: 10.1182/blood.2020007214.


There is an urgent need to understand the pathogenesis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). In particular, thrombotic complications in patients with COVID-19 are common and contribute to organ failure and mortality. Patients with severe COVID-19 present with hemostatic abnormalities that mimic disseminated intravascular coagulopathy associated with sepsis, with the major difference being increased risk of thrombosis rather than bleeding. However, whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection alters platelet function to contribute to the pathophysiology of COVID-19 remains unknown. In this study, we report altered platelet gene expression and functional responses in patients infected with SARS-CoV-2. RNA sequencing demonstrated distinct changes in the gene-expression profile of circulating platelets of COVID-19 patients. Pathway analysis revealed differential gene-expression changes in pathways associated with protein ubiquitination, antigen presentation, and mitochondrial dysfunction. The receptor for SARS-CoV-2 binding, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), was not detected by messenger RNA (mRNA) or protein in platelets. Surprisingly, mRNA from the SARS-CoV-2 N1 gene was detected in platelets from 2 of 25 COVID-19 patients, suggesting that platelets may take-up SARS-COV-2 mRNA independent of ACE2. Resting platelets from COVID-19 patients had increased P-selectin expression basally and upon activation. Circulating platelet-neutrophil, -monocyte, and -T-cell aggregates were all significantly elevated in COVID-19 patients compared with healthy donors. Furthermore, platelets from COVID-19 patients aggregated faster and showed increased spreading on both fibrinogen and collagen. The increase in platelet activation and aggregation could partially be attributed to increased MAPK pathway activation and thromboxane generation. These findings demonstrate that SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with platelet hyperreactivity, which may contribute to COVID-19 pathophysiology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / isolation & purification*
  • Biomarkers
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / genetics
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / metabolism
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / pathology*
  • Blood Coagulation Disorders / virology
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism
  • Blood Platelets / pathology*
  • Blood Platelets / virology
  • COVID-19
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / genetics
  • Coronavirus Infections / metabolism
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / genetics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / metabolism
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Transcriptome*


  • Biomarkers