SARS-CoV-2 infection reduces Krüppel-Like Factor 2 in human lung autopsy

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2021 Jan 18:2021.01.15.426691. doi: 10.1101/2021.01.15.426691.


Acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) occurred in ~12% of hospitalized COVID-19 patients in a recent New York City cohort. Pulmonary endothelial dysfunction, characterized by increased expression of inflammatory genes and increased monolayer permeability, is a major component of ARDS. Vascular leak results in parenchymal accumulation of leukocytes, protein, and extravascular water, leading to pulmonary edema, ischemia, and activation of coagulation associated with COVID-19. Endothelial inflammation further contributes to uncontrolled cytokine storm in ARDS. We have recently demonstrated that Kruppel-like factor 2 (KLF2), a transcription factor which promotes endothelial quiescence and monolayer integrity, is significantly reduced in experimental models of ARDS. Lung inflammation and high-tidal volume ventilation result in reduced KLF2, leading to pulmonary endothelial dysfunction and acute lung injury. Mechanistically, we found that KLF2 is a potent transcriptional activator of Rap guanine nucleotide exchange factor 3 (RAPGEF3) which orchestrates and maintains vascular integrity. Moreover, KLF2 regulates multiple genome-wide association study (GWAS)-implicated ARDS genes. Whether lung KLF2 is regulated by SARS-CoV-2 infection is unknown. Here we report that endothelial KLF2 is significantly reduced in human lung autopsies from COVID-19 patients, which supports that ARDS due to SARS-CoV-2 is a vascular phenotype possibly attributed to KLF2 down-regulation. We provide additional data demonstrating that KLF2 is down-regulated in SARS-CoV infection in mice.

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  • Preprint