Immunophenotype and function of circulating myeloid derived suppressor cells in COVID-19 patients

Sci Rep. 2022 Dec 29;12(1):22570. doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-26943-z.


The pathogenesis of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is not fully elucidated. COVID-19 is due to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) which causes severe illness and death in some people by causing immune dysregulation and blood T cell depletion. Increased numbers of myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSCs) play a diverse role in the pathogenesis of many infections and cancers but their function in COVID-19 remains unclear. To evaluate the function of MDSCs in relation with the severity of COVID-19. 26 PCR-confirmed COVID-19 patients including 12 moderate and 14 severe patients along with 11 healthy age- and sex-matched controls were enrolled. 10 ml whole blood was harvested for cell isolation, immunophenotyping and stimulation. The immunophenotype of MDSCs by flow cytometry and T cells proliferation in the presence of MDSCs was evaluated. Serum TGF-β was assessed by ELISA. High percentages of M-MDSCs in males and of P-MDSCs in female patients were found in severe and moderate affected patients. Isolated MDSCs of COVID-19 patients suppressed the proliferation and intracellular levels of IFN-γ in T cells despite significant suppression of T regulatory cells but up-regulation of precursor regulatory T cells. Serum analysis shows increased levels of TGF-β in severe patients compared to moderate and control subjects (HC) (P = 0.003, P < 0.0001, respectively). The frequency of MDSCs in blood shows higher frequency among both moderate and severe patients and may be considered as a predictive factor for disease severity. MDSCs may suppress T cell proliferation by releasing TGF-β.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • COVID-19*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Male
  • Myeloid-Derived Suppressor Cells*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Transforming Growth Factor beta


  • Transforming Growth Factor beta