Effective DNA damage response after acute but not chronic immune challenge: SARS-CoV-2 vaccine versus Systemic Lupus Erythematosus

Clin Immunol. 2021 Aug;229:108765. doi: 10.1016/j.clim.2021.108765. Epub 2021 Jun 2.


Whether and how an acute immune challenge may affect DNA Damage Response (DDR) is unknown. By studying vaccinations against Influenza and SARS-CoV-2 (mRNA-based) we found acute increases of type-I interferon-inducible gene expression, oxidative stress and DNA damage accumulation in blood mononuclear cells of 9 healthy controls, coupled with effective anti-SARS-CoV-2 neutralizing antibody production in all. Increased DNA damage after SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, partly due to increased oxidative stress, was transient, whereas the inherent DNA repair capacity was found intact. In contrast, in 26 patients with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, who served as controls in the context of chronic immune activation, we validated increased DNA damage accumulation, increased type-I interferon-inducible gene expression and induction of oxidative stress, however aberrant DDR was associated with deficiencies in nucleotide excision repair pathways. These results indicate that acute immune challenge can indeed activate DDR pathways, whereas, contrary to chronic immune challenge, successful repair of DNA lesions occurs.

Keywords: Acute immune activation; Chronic immune activation; DNA damage response; Influenza; Oxidative stress; SARS-CoV-2; Type I interferon; Vaccination.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / physiology*
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • COVID-19 / prevention & control*
  • COVID-19 Vaccines / immunology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • DNA Damage*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology
  • Humans
  • Interferon Type I / metabolism
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / immunology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Oxidative Stress
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Vaccines, Synthetic / immunology
  • Young Adult


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • COVID-19 Vaccines
  • Interferon Type I
  • Vaccines, Synthetic
  • mRNA Vaccine