Chronic lung diseases are associated with gene expression programs favoring SARS-CoV-2 entry and severity

bioRxiv. 2021 Jan 4;2020.10.20.347187. doi: 10.1101/2020.10.20.347187. Preprint


Patients with chronic lung disease (CLD) have an increased risk for severe coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) and poor outcomes. Here, we analyzed the transcriptomes of 605,904 single cells isolated from healthy and CLD lungs to identify molecular characteristics of lung cells that may account for worse COVID-19 outcomes in patients with chronic lung diseases. We observed a similar cellular distribution and relative expression of SARS-CoV-2 entry factors in control and CLD lungs. CLD epithelial cells expressed higher levels of genes linked directly to the efficiency of viral replication and innate immune response. Additionally, we identified basal differences in inflammatory gene expression programs that highlight how CLD alters the inflammatory microenvironment encountered upon viral exposure to the peripheral lung. Our study indicates that CLD is accompanied by changes in cell-type-specific gene expression programs that prime the lung epithelium for and influence the innate and adaptive immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Keywords: COPD; COVID-19; genomics; pulmonary fibrosis; scRNA-seq.

Publication types

  • Preprint