• Complement activation induces excessive T cell cytotoxicity in severe COVID-19.

      Georg, Philipp; Astaburuaga-García, Rosario; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; Brumhard, Sophia; Michalick, Laura; Lippert, Lena J; Kostevc, Tomislav; Gäbel, Christiane; Schneider, Maria; Streitz, Mathias; et al. (Elsevier, 2021-12-28)
      Severe COVID-19 is linked to both dysfunctional immune response and unrestrained immunopathology, and it remains unclear whether T cells contribute to disease pathology. Here, we combined single-cell transcriptomics and single-cell proteomics with mechanistic studies to assess pathogenic T cell functions and inducing signals. We identified highly activated CD16+ T cells with increased cytotoxic functions in severe COVID-19. CD16 expression enabled immune-complex-mediated, T cell receptor-independent degranulation and cytotoxicity not found in other diseases. CD16+ T cells from COVID-19 patients promoted microvascular endothelial cell injury and release of neutrophil and monocyte chemoattractants. CD16+ T cell clones persisted beyond acute disease maintaining their cytotoxic phenotype. Increased generation of C3a in severe COVID-19 induced activated CD16+ cytotoxic T cells. Proportions of activated CD16+ T cells and plasma levels of complement proteins upstream of C3a were associated with fatal outcome of COVID-19, supporting a pathological role of exacerbated cytotoxicity and complement activation in COVID-19.
    • Integrative functional genomics decodes herpes simplex virus 1.

      Whisnant, Adam W; Jürges, Christopher S; Hennig, Thomas; Wyler, Emanuel; Prusty, Bhupesh; Rutkowski, Andrzej J; L'hernault, Anne; Djakovic, Lara; Göbel, Margarete; Döring, Kristina; et al. (NPG, 2020-04-27)
      The predicted 80 open reading frames (ORFs) of herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) have been intensively studied for decades. Here, we unravel the complete viral transcriptome and translatome during lytic infection with base-pair resolution by computational integration of multi-omics data. We identify a total of 201 transcripts and 284 ORFs including all known and 46 novel large ORFs. This includes a so far unknown ORF in the locus deleted in the FDA-approved oncolytic virus Imlygic. Multiple transcript isoforms expressed from individual gene loci explain translation of the vast majority of ORFs as well as N-terminal extensions (NTEs) and truncations. We show that NTEs with non-canonical start codons govern the subcellular protein localization and packaging of key viral regulators and structural proteins. We extend the current nomenclature to include all viral gene products and provide a genome browser that visualizes all the obtained data from whole genome to single-nucleotide resolution.
    • Severe COVID-19 Is Marked by a Dysregulated Myeloid Cell Compartment.

      Schulte-Schrepping, Jonas; Reusch, Nico; Paclik, Daniela; Baßler, Kevin; Schlickeiser, Stephan; Zhang, Bowen; Krämer, Benjamin; Krammer, Tobias; Brumhard, Sophia; Bonaguro, Lorenzo; et al. (Elsevier /Cell Press), 2020-08-05)
      Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a mild to moderate respiratory tract infection, however, a subset of patients progress to severe disease and respiratory failure. The mechanism of protective immunity in mild forms and the pathogenesis of severe COVID-19 associated with increased neutrophil counts and dysregulated immune responses remain unclear. In a dual-center, two-cohort study, we combined single-cell RNA-sequencing and single-cell proteomics of whole-blood and peripheral-blood mononuclear cells to determine changes in immune cell composition and activation in mild versus severe COVID-19 (242 samples from 109 individuals) over time. HLA-DRhiCD11chi inflammatory monocytes with an interferon-stimulated gene signature were elevated in mild COVID-19. Severe COVID-19 was marked by occurrence of neutrophil precursors, as evidence of emergency myelopoiesis, dysfunctional mature neutrophils, and HLA-DRlo monocytes. Our study provides detailed insights into the systemic immune response to SARS-CoV-2 infection and reveals profound alterations in the myeloid cell compartment associated with severe COVID-19.
    • The Zinc Finger Antiviral Protein ZAP Restricts Human Cytomegalovirus and Selectively Binds and Destabilizes Viral / Transcripts.

      Gonzalez-Perez, Ana Cristina; Stempel, Markus; Wyler, Emanuel; Urban, Christian; Piras, Antonio; Hennig, Thomas; Ganskih, Sabina; Wei, Yuanjie; Heim, Albert; Landthaler, Markus; et al. (ASM, 2021-05-04)
      Interferon-stimulated gene products (ISGs) play a crucial role in early infection control. The ISG zinc finger CCCH-type antiviral protein 1 (ZAP/ZC3HAV1) antagonizes several RNA viruses by binding to CG-rich RNA sequences, whereas its effect on DNA viruses is less well understood. Here, we decipher the role of ZAP in the context of human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, a β-herpesvirus that is associated with high morbidity in immunosuppressed individuals and newborns. We show that expression of the two major isoforms of ZAP, ZAP-S and ZAP-L, is induced during HCMV infection and that both negatively affect HCMV replication. Transcriptome and proteome analyses demonstrated that the expression of ZAP results in reduced viral mRNA and protein levels and decelerates the progression of HCMV infection. Metabolic RNA labeling combined with high-throughput sequencing (SLAM-seq) revealed that most of the gene expression changes late in infection result from the general attenuation of HCMV. Furthermore, at early stages of infection, ZAP restricts HCMV by destabilizing a distinct subset of viral mRNAs, particularly those from the previously uncharacterized UL4-UL6 HCMV gene locus. Through enhanced cross-linking immunoprecipitation and sequencing analysis (eCLIP-seq), we identified the transcripts expressed from this HCMV locus as the direct targets of ZAP. Moreover, our data show that ZAP preferentially recognizes not only CG, but also other cytosine-rich sequences, thereby expanding its target specificity. In summary, this report is the first to reveal direct targets of ZAP during HCMV infection, which strongly indicates that transcripts from the UL4-UL6 locus may play an important role for HCMV replication.IMPORTANCE Viral infections have a large impact on society, leading to major human and economic losses and even global instability. So far, many viral infections, including human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) infection, are treated with a small repertoire of drugs, often accompanied by the occurrence of resistant mutants. There is no licensed HCMV vaccine in sight to protect those most at risk, particularly immunocompromised individuals or pregnant women who might otherwise transmit the virus to the fetus. Thus, the identification of novel intervention strategies is urgently required. In this study, we show that ZAP decelerates the viral gene expression cascade, presumably by selectively handpicking a distinct set of viral transcripts for degradation. Our study illustrates the potent role of ZAP as an HCMV restriction factor and sheds light on a possible role for UL4 and/or UL5 early during infection, paving a new avenue for the exploration of potential targets for novel therapies.