SARS-CoV-2 Impairs Dendritic Cells and Regulates DC-SIGN Gene Expression in Tissues

Int J Mol Sci. 2021 Aug 26;22(17):9228. doi: 10.3390/ijms22179228.


The current spreading coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is highly infectious and pathogenic. In this study, we screened the gene expression of three host receptors (ACE2, DC-SIGN and L-SIGN) of SARS coronaviruses and dendritic cells (DCs) status in bulk and single cell transcriptomic datasets of upper airway, lung or blood of COVID-19 patients and healthy controls. In COVID-19 patients, DC-SIGN gene expression was interestingly decreased in lung DCs but increased in blood DCs. Within DCs, conventional DCs (cDCs) were depleted while plasmacytoid DCs (pDCs) were augmented in the lungs of mild COVID-19. In severe cases, we identified augmented types of immature DCs (CD22+ or ANXA1+ DCs) with MHCII downregulation. In this study, our observation indicates that DCs in severe cases stimulate innate immune responses but fail to specifically present SARS-CoV-2. It provides insights into the profound modulation of DC function in severe COVID-19.

Keywords: ACE2; COVID-19; DC-SIGN; L-SIGN; dendritic cells.

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / genetics
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism
  • COVID-19 / diagnosis
  • COVID-19 / immunology*
  • COVID-19 / pathology
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / genetics*
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules / metabolism
  • Datasets as Topic
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Dendritic Cells / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation / immunology*
  • Genome-Wide Association Study
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Innate
  • Lectins, C-Type / genetics*
  • Lectins, C-Type / metabolism
  • Lung / immunology
  • Lung / pathology
  • Lung / virology
  • Mendelian Randomization Analysis
  • Nasopharynx / immunology
  • Nasopharynx / pathology
  • Nasopharynx / virology
  • RNA-Seq
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / genetics*
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Single-Cell Analysis


  • CLEC4M protein, human
  • Cell Adhesion Molecules
  • DC-specific ICAM-3 grabbing nonintegrin
  • Lectins, C-Type
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2