Single-Cell Analysis Reveals Macrophage-Driven T Cell Dysfunction in Severe COVID-19 Patients
Posted 26 May 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.05.23.20100024
Posted 26 May 2020
The vastly spreading COVID-19 pneumonia is caused by SARS-CoV-2. Lymphopenia and cytokine levels are tightly associated with disease severity. However, virus-induced immune dysregulation at cellular and molecular levels remains largely undefined. Here, the leukocytes in the pleural effusion, sputum, and peripheral blood biopsies from severe and mild patients were analyzed at single-cell resolution. Drastic T cell hyperactivation accompanying elevated T cell exhaustion was observed, predominantly in pleural effusion. The mechanistic investigation identified a group of CD14+ monocytes and macrophages highly expressing CD163 and MRC1 in the biopsies from severe patients, suggesting M2 macrophage polarization. These M2-like cells exhibited up-regulated IL10, CCL18, APOE, CSF1 (M-CSF), and CCL2 signaling pathways. Further, SARS-CoV-2-specific T cells were observed in pleural effusion earlier than in peripheral blood. Together, our results suggest that severe SARS-CoV-2 infection causes immune dysregulation by inducing M2 polarization and subsequent T cell exhaustion. This study improves our understanding of COVID-19 pathogenesis.
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