Next generation plasma proteome profiling of COVID-19 patients with mild to moderate symptoms

EBioMedicine. 2021 Dec:74:103723. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2021.103723. Epub 2021 Nov 27.


Background: COVID-19 has caused millions of deaths globally, yet the cellular mechanisms underlying the various effects of the disease remain poorly understood. Recently, a new analytical platform for comprehensive analysis of plasma protein profiles using proximity extension assays combined with next generation sequencing has been developed, which allows for multiple proteins to be analyzed simultaneously without sacrifice on accuracy or sensitivity.

Methods: We analyzed the plasma protein profiles of COVID-19 patients (n = 50) with mild and moderate symptoms by comparing the protein levels in newly diagnosed patients with the protein levels in the same individuals after 14 days.

Findings: The study has identified more than 200 proteins that are significantly elevated during infection and many of these are related to cytokine response and other immune-related functions. In addition, several other proteins are shown to be elevated, including SCARB2, a host cell receptor protein involved in virus entry. A comparison with the plasma protein response in patients with severe symptoms shows a highly similar pattern, but with some interesting differences.

Interpretation: The study presented here demonstrates the usefulness of "next generation plasma protein profiling" to identify molecular signatures of importance for disease progression and to allow monitoring of disease during recovery from the infection. The results will facilitate further studies to understand the molecular mechanism of the immune-related response of the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Funding: This work was financially supported by Knut and Alice Wallenberg Foundation.

Keywords: COVID-19; Immune response; Plasma proteome; Protein profiling.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial, Phase II
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Blood Proteins / classification*
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • COVID-19 / blood*
  • COVID-19 / pathology*
  • Disease Progression
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • High-Throughput Screening Assays
  • Humans
  • Plasma / chemistry*
  • Proteome / metabolism
  • SARS-CoV-2 / immunology
  • Severity of Illness Index


  • Blood Proteins
  • Proteome