Spatial Profiling of Lung SARS-CoV-2 and Influenza Virus Infection Dissects Virus-Specific Host Responses and Gene Signatures
Kulasinghe A., Tan CW., dos Santos Miggiolaro AFR., Monkman J., Bhuva D., Motta Junior JDS., Vaz de Paula CB., Nagashima S., Baena CP., Souza-Fonseca-Guimaraes P., de Noronha L., McCulloch T., Rossi GR., Cooper C., Tang B., Short K., Davis M., Souza-Fonseca-Guimaraes F., Belz G., O’Byrne K.
Abstract The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that emerged in late 2019 has spread globally, causing a pandemic of respiratory illness designated coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). Robust blood biomarkers that reflect tissue damage are urgently needed to better stratify and triage infected patients. Here, we use spatial transcriptomics to generate an in-depth picture of the pulmonary transcriptional landscape of COVID-19 (10 patients), pandemic H1N1 (pH1N1) influenza (5) and uninfected control patients (4). Host transcriptomics showed a significant upregulation of genes associated with inflammation, type I interferon production, coagulation and angiogenesis in the lungs of COVID-19 patients compared to non-infected controls. SARS-CoV-2 was non-uniformly distributed in lungs with few areas of high viral load and these were largely only associated with an increased type I interferon response. A very limited number of genes were differentially expressed between the lungs of influenza and COVID-19 patients. Specific interferon-associated genes (including IFI27 ) were identified as candidate novel biomarkers for COVID-19 differentiating this COVID-19 from influenza. Collectively, these data demonstrate that spatial transcriptomics is a powerful tool to identify novel gene signatures within tissues, offering new insights into the pathogenesis of SARS-COV-2 to aid in patient triage and treatment.