The differential immune responses to COVID-19 in peripheral and lung revealed by single-cell RNA sequencing
Posted 17 Aug 2020
medRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.08.15.20175638
Posted 17 Aug 2020
Understanding the mechanism that leads to immune dysfunction induced by SARS-CoV2 virus is crucial to develop treatment for severe COVID-19. Here, using single cell RNA-seq, we characterized the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) from uninfected controls and COVID-19 patients, and cells in paired broncho-alveolar lavage fluid (BALF). We found a close association of decreased dendritic cells (DC) and increased monocytes resembling myeloid-derived suppressor cells (MDSC) which correlated with lymphopenia and inflammation in the blood of severe COVID-19 patients. Those MDSC-like monocytes were immune-paralyzed. In contrast, monocyte-macrophages in BALFs of COVID-19 patients produced massive amounts of cytokines and chemokines, but secreted little interferons. The frequencies of peripheral T cells and NK cells were significantly decreased in severe COVID-19 patients, especially for innate-like T and various CD8+ T cell subsets, compared to health controls. In contrast, the proportions of various activated CD4+ T cell subsets, including Th1, Th2 and Th17-like cells were increased and more clonally expanded in severe COVID-19 patients. Patients' peripheral T cells showed no sign of exhaustion or augmented cell death, whereas T cells in BALFs produced higher levels of IFNG, TNF, CCL4 and CCL5 etc. Paired TCR tracking indicated abundant recruitment of peripheral T cells to the patients' lung. Together, this study comprehensively depicts how the immune cell landscape is perturbed in severe COVID-19.
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