SARS-CoV-2 infection causes dopaminergic neuron senescence.

Publication date: Feb 01, 2024

COVID-19 patients commonly present with signs of central nervous system and/or peripheral nervous system dysfunction. Here, we show that midbrain dopamine (DA) neurons derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are selectively susceptible and permissive to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. SARS-CoV-2 infection of DA neurons triggers an inflammatory and cellular senescence response. High-throughput screening in hPSC-derived DA neurons identified several FDA-approved drugs that can rescue the cellular senescence phenotype by preventing SARS-CoV-2 infection. We also identified the inflammatory and cellular senescence signature and low levels of SARS-CoV-2 transcripts in human substantia nigra tissue of COVID-19 patients. Furthermore, we observed reduced numbers of neuromelanin+ and tyrosine-hydroxylase (TH)+ DA neurons and fibers in a cohort of severe COVID-19 patients. Our findings demonstrate that hPSC-derived DA neurons are susceptible to SARS-CoV-2, identify candidate neuroprotective drugs for COVID-19 patients, and suggest the need for careful, long-term monitoring of neurological problems in COVID-19 patients.

Concepts Keywords
Coronavirus dopaminergic neuron
Dopamine SARS-CoV-2
Fda senescence


Type Source Name
disease MESH SARS-CoV-2 infection
pathway REACTOME SARS-CoV-2 Infection
disease MESH causes
drug DRUGBANK Dopamine
disease VO Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2
disease MESH infection
pathway KEGG Cellular senescence
drug DRUGBANK L-Tyrosine

Original Article

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