BRIEF REPORT | doi:10.20944/preprints202005.0429.v1
Subject: Medicine & Pharmacology, Pathology & Pathobiology Keywords: mechanical stress; vicious cycle; midkine; ARDS; GTEx
Online: 26 May 2020 (11:26:52 CEST)
The SARS-Cov-2 virus, which causes COVID 19, uses the cell surface protein ACE2 as receptor for entry into cells. Critically ill COVID-19 patients often require prolonged mechanical ventilation which can cause mechanical stress to lung tissue. In vitro studies have shown that expression of ACE2 in alveolar cells is increased following mechanical stretch and inflammation. Therefore, we analyzed transcriptome datasets of 480 (non-COVID-19) lung tissues in the GTex tissue gene expression database. We found that mechanical ventilation of the tissue donors increased the expression of ACE2 by more than two-fold (p<10-6). Analyses of transcriptomes of mechanically ventilated mice in the GEO database indicate that this alveolar cell response to stretch and inflammation is mediated by the chemokine midkine. Using a novel big knowledge network approach (SPOKE) we also found in transcriptomes of pharmacological perturbations (LINCS) that corticosteroids down-regulate midkine in pulmonal cells, and confirmed this in GEO transcriptomes of animal studies. Thus, mechanical ventilation of patients with COVID-19 pneumonia may eo ipso facilitate viral propagation in the lung, further accelerating the pulmonal pathology that has necessitated mechanical ventilation in the first place. This vicious cycle presents a rationale for the temporary treatment with corticosteroids to modulate the midkine-ACE2 axis in ventilated COVID19 patients and for gentler ventilation protocols.