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Expansion of Single Cell Transcriptomics Data of SARS-CoV Infection in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells to COVID-19

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Background: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the causative agent of coronavirus disease 19 (COVID-19) that was emerged as a new member of coronaviruses since December 2019 in Wuhan, China and then after was spread in all continentals. Since SARS-CoV-2 has shown about 77.5% similarity to SARS-CoV, the transcriptome and immunological regulations of SARS-CoV-2 was expected to have high percentage of overlap with SARS-CoV. Results: In this study, we applied the single cell transcriptomics data of human bronchial epithelial cells (2B4 cell line) infected with SARS-CoV, which was annotated in the Expression Atlas database to expand this data to COVID-19. In addition, we employed system biology methods including gene ontology (GO) and Reactome pathway analyses to define functional genes and pathways in the infected cells with SARS-CoV. The transcriptomics analysis on the Expression Atlas database revealed that most genes from infected 2B4 cell line with SARS-CoV were downregulated leading to immune system hyperactivation, induction of signaling pathways, and consequently a cytokine storm. In addition, GO:0016192 (vesicle-mediated transport), GO:0006886 (intracellular protein transport), and GO:0006888 (ER to Golgi vesicle-mediated transport) were shown as top three GOs in the ontology network of infected cells with SARS-CoV. Meanwhile, R-HAS-6807070 (phosphatase and tensin homolog or PTEN regulation) showed the highest association with other Reactome pathways in the network of infected cells with SARS-CoV. PTEN plays a critical role in the activation of dendritic cells, B- and T-cells, and secretion of proinflammatory cytokines, which cooperates with downregulated genes in the promotion of cytokine storm in the COVID-19 patients. Conclusions: Based on the high similarity percentage of the transcriptome of SARS-CoV with SARS-CoV-2, the data of immunological regulations, signaling pathways, and proinflammatory cytokines in SARS-CoV infection can be expanded to COVID-19 to have a valid platform for future pharmaceutical and vaccine studies.




Zolfaghari Emameh, R., Nosrati, H., Eftekhari, M., Falak, R., & Khoshmirsafa, M. (2020). Expansion of Single Cell Transcriptomics Data of SARS-CoV Infection in Human Bronchial Epithelial Cells to COVID-19. Biological Procedures Online, 22(1).

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