SARS-CoV-2 envelope protein impairs airway epithelial barrier function and exacerbates airway inflammation via increased intracellular Cl concentration.

Publication date: Mar 25, 2024

Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection disrupts the epithelial barrier and triggers airway inflammation. The envelope (E) protein, a core virulence structural component of coronaviruses, may play a role in this process. Pathogens could interfere with transepithelial Cl transport via impairment of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR), which modulates nuclear factor _705B (NF-_705B) signaling. However, the pathological effects of SARS-CoV-2 E protein on airway epithelial barrier function, Cl transport and the robust inflammatory response remain to be elucidated. Here, we have demonstrated that E protein down-regulated the expression of tight junctional proteins, leading to the disruption of the airway epithelial barrier. In addition, E protein triggered the activation of Toll-like receptor (TLR) 2/4 and downstream c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) signaling, resulting in an increased intracellular Cl concentration ([Cl]) via up-regulating phosphodiesterase 4D (PDE4D) expression in airway epithelial cells. This elevated [Cl] contributed to the heightened airway inflammation through promoting the phosphorylation of serum/glucocorticoid regulated kinase 1 (SGK1). Moreover, blockade of SGK1 or PDE4 alleviated the robust inflammatory response induced by E protein. Overall, these findings provide novel insights into the pathogenic role of SARS-CoV-2 E protein in airway epithelial damage and the ongoing airway inflammation during SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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Concepts Keywords
Coronaviruses Airway
Exacerbates Barrier
Nuclear Concentration
Transepithelial Cov
Virulence Envelope
Epithelial
Increased
Infection
Inflammation
Intracellular
Protein
Sars
Signaling
Transport

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