Induction of exaggerated cytokine production in human peripheral blood mononuclear cells by a recombinant SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein S1 and its inhibition by dexamethasone

Olumayokun Olajide, Victoria Iwuanyanwu, Izabela Lepiarz-Raba, Alaa Al-Hindawi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

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-κB 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 are possibly due to its anti-inflammatory activity in reducing SARS-CoV-2 cytokine storm.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages13
JournalInflammation
Early online date16 Apr 2021
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 16 Apr 2021

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