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Distinct upper airway epithelium interferon-stimulated and profibrotic gene expression between adult and infant rhesus macaques infected with SARS-CoV-2

By Stephanie N. Langel, Carolina Garrido, Caroline Phan, Tatianna Travieso, Todd DeMarco, Zhong-Min Ma, J. Rachel Reader, Katherine J Olstad, Rebecca L. Sammak, Yashavanth Shaan Lakshmanappa, Jamin W. Roh, Jennifer Watanabe, Jodie Usachenko, Ramya Immareddy, Rachel E. Pollard, Smita S. Iyer, Sallie R Permar, Lisa Miller, Koen K. A. Van Rompay, Maria Blasi

Posted 14 Feb 2022
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2022.02.12.480218

The global spread of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and its associated coronavirus disease (COVID-19) has led to a pandemic of unprecedented scale. An intriguing feature of the infection is the minimal disease in most children, a demographic at higher risk for respiratory viral diseases. To elucidate age-dependent effects of SARS-CoV-2 pathogenesis, we inoculated two rhesus macaque monkey dam-infant pairs with SARS-CoV-2 and conducted virological and transcriptomic analysis of the respiratory tract and evaluated systemic cytokine and antibody responses. Viral RNA levels in all sampled mucosal secretions were comparable across dam-infant pairs in the respiratory tract. Despite comparable viral loads, adult macaques showed higher IL-6 in serum while CXCL10 was induced in all animals. Both groups mounted neutralizing antibody (nAb) responses, with infants showing a more rapid induction at day 7. Transcriptome analysis of tracheal tissue isolated at day 14 post-infection revealed significant upregulation of multiple interferon-stimulated genes in infants compared to adults. In contrast, a profibrotic transcriptomic signature with genes associated with cilia structure and function, extracellular matrix (ECM) composition and metabolism, coagulation, angiogenesis, and hypoxia was induced in adults compared to infants. Our observations suggest age-dependent differential airway responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection that could explain the distinction in pathogenesis between infants and adults.

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