An understanding of the pathological inflammatory mechanisms involved in SARS CoV-2 virus infection is necessary in order to discover new molecular pharmacological targets for SARS-CoV-2 cytokine storm. In this study, the effects of a recombinant SARS CoV-2 spike glycoprotein S1 was investigated in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). Stimulation of PBMCs with spike glycoprotein S1 (100 ng/mL) resulted in significant elevation in the production of TNFα, IL-6, IL-1β and IL-8. However, pre-treatment with dexamethasone (100 nM) caused significant reduction in the release of these cytokines. Further experiments revealed that S1 stimulation of PBMCs increased phosphorylation of NF-κB p65 and IκBα, and IκBα degradation. DNA binding of NF-B p65 was also significantly increased following stimulation with spike glycoprotein S1. Treatment of PBMCs with dexamethasone (100 nM) or BAY11-7082 (1 µM) resulted in inhibition of spike glycoprotein S1-induced NF-κB activation. Activation of p38 MAPK by S1 was blocked in the presence of dexamethasone and SKF 86002. CRID3, but not dexamethasone pre-treatment produced significant inhibition of S1-induced activation of NLRP3/caspase 1. Further experiments revealed that S1-induced increase in the production of TNFα, IL-6, IL-1β and IL-8 was reduced in the presence of BAY11-7082 and SKF 86002, while CRID3 pre-treatment resulted in the reduction of IL-1β production. These results suggest that SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein S1 stimulated PBMCs to release pro inflammatory cytokines through mechanisms involving activation of NF-κB, p38 MAPK and NLRP3 inflammasome. It is proposed that the clinical benefits of dexamethasone in COVID-19 is possibly due to its anti-inflammatory activity in reducing SARS-CoV-2 cytokine storm.
|Publication status||Accepted/In press - 1 Apr 2021|