DAMPs/PAMPs induce monocytic TLR activation and tolerance in COVID-19 patients; nucleic acid binding scavengers can counteract such TLR agonists

Biomaterials. 2022 Apr:283:121393. doi: 10.1016/j.biomaterials.2022.121393. Epub 2022 Jan 28.


Millions of COVID-19 patients have succumbed to respiratory and systemic inflammation. Hyperstimulation of toll-like receptor (TLR) signaling is a key driver of immunopathology following infection by viruses. We found that severely ill COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) display hallmarks of such hyper-stimulation with abundant agonists of nucleic acid-sensing TLRs present in their blood and lungs. These nucleic acid-containing Damage and Pathogen Associated Molecular Patterns (DAMPs/PAMPs) can be depleted using nucleic acid-binding microfibers to limit the patient samples' ability to hyperactivate such innate immune receptors. Single-cell RNA-sequencing revealed that CD16+ monocytes from deceased but not recovered ICU patients exhibit a TLR-tolerant phenotype and a deficient anti-viral response after ex vivo TLR stimulation. Plasma proteomics confirmed such myeloid hyperactivation and revealed DAMP/PAMP carrier consumption in deceased patients. Treatment of these COVID-19 patient samples with MnO nanoparticles effectively neutralizes TLR activation by the abundant nucleic acid-containing DAMPs/PAMPs present in their lungs and blood. Finally, MnO nanoscavenger treatment limits the ability of DAMPs/PAMPs to induce TLR tolerance in monocytes. Thus, treatment with microfiber- or nanoparticle-based DAMP/PAMP scavengers may prove useful for limiting SARS-CoV-2 induced hyperinflammation, preventing monocytic TLR tolerance, and improving outcomes in severely ill COVID-19 patients.

Keywords: Major-biological sciences; Minor-immunology and inflammation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Humans
  • Nucleic Acids*
  • Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern Molecules
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Toll-Like Receptors


  • Nucleic Acids
  • Pathogen-Associated Molecular Pattern Molecules
  • Toll-Like Receptors