Over 5 million people around the world have tested positive for the beta coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 as of May 29, 2020, a third of which are in the United States alone. These infections are associated with the development of a disease known as COVID-19, which is characterized by several symptoms, including persistent dry cough, shortness of breath, chills, muscle pain, headache, loss of taste or smell, and gastrointestinal distress. COVID-19 has been characterized by elevated mortality (over 100 thousand people have already died in the US alone), mostly due to thromboinflammatory complications that impair lung perfusion and systemic oxygenation in the most severe cases. While the levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines such as interleukin-6 (IL-6) have been associated with the severity of the disease, little is known about the impact of IL-6 levels on the proteome of COVID-19 patients. The present study provides the first proteomics analysis of sera from COVID-19 patients, stratified by circulating levels of IL-6, and correlated to markers of inflammation and renal function. As a function of IL-6 levels, we identified significant dysregulation in serum levels of various coagulation factors, accompanied by increased levels of antifibrinolytic components, including several serine protease inhibitors (SERPINs). These were accompanied by up-regulation of the complement cascade and antimicrobial enzymes, especially in subjects with the highest levels of IL-6, which is consistent with an exacerbation of the acute phase response in these subjects. Although our results are observational, they highlight a clear increase in the levels of inhibitory components of the fibrinolytic cascade in severe COVID-19 disease, providing potential clues related to the etiology of coagulopathic complications in COVID-19 and paving the way for potential therapeutic interventions, such as the use of pro-fibrinolytic agents. Raw data for this study are available through ProteomeXchange with identifier PXD020601.
Keywords: SARS-CoV-2; clot; disease severity; inflammation; serum.