Frontiers in Genetics (2021-05-01)

Transcriptional Start Site Coverage Analysis in Plasma Cell-Free DNA Reveals Disease Severity and Tissue Specificity of COVID-19 Patients

  • Xinping Chen,
  • Tao Wu,
  • Lingguo Li,
  • Lingguo Li,
  • Lingguo Li,
  • Yu Lin,
  • Zhichao Ma,
  • Jinjin Xu,
  • Hui Li,
  • Fanjun Cheng,
  • Ruoyan Chen,
  • Kun Sun,
  • Kun Sun,
  • Yuxue Luo,
  • Yuxue Luo,
  • Chen Zhang,
  • Fang Chen,
  • Jiao Wang,
  • Tingyu Kuo,
  • Tingyu Kuo,
  • Xiaojuan Li,
  • Chunyu Geng,
  • Feng Lin,
  • Chaojie Huang,
  • Junjie Hu,
  • Jianhua Yin,
  • Ming Liu,
  • Ye Tao,
  • Jiye Zhang,
  • Rijing Ou,
  • Fang Zheng,
  • Yan Jin,
  • Huanming Yang,
  • Huanming Yang,
  • Jian Wang,
  • Jian Wang,
  • Xun Xu,
  • Xun Xu,
  • Shengmiao Fu,
  • Hongyan Jiang,
  • Xin Jin,
  • Xin Jin,
  • Haiqiang Zhang

DOI
https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2021.663098
Journal volume & issue
Vol. 12

Abstract

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Symptoms of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) range from asymptomatic to severe pneumonia and death. A deep understanding of the variation of biological characteristics in severe COVID-19 patients is crucial for the detection of individuals at high risk of critical condition for the clinical management of the disease. Herein, by profiling the gene expression spectrum deduced from DNA coverage in regions surrounding transcriptional start site in plasma cell-free DNA (cfDNA) of COVID-19 patients, we deciphered the altered biological processes in the severe cases and demonstrated the feasibility of cfDNA in measuring the COVID-19 progression. The up- and downregulated genes in the plasma of severe patient were found to be closely related to the biological processes and functions affected by COVID-19 progression. More importantly, with the analysis of transcriptome data of blood cells and lung cells from control group and cases with severe acute respiratory syndrome-coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, we revealed that the upregulated genes were predominantly involved in the viral and antiviral activity in blood cells, reflecting the intense viral replication and the active reaction of immune system in the severe patients. Pathway analysis of downregulated genes in plasma DNA and lung cells also demonstrated the diminished adenosine triphosphate synthesis function in lung cells, which was evidenced to correlate with the severe COVID-19 symptoms, such as a cytokine storm and acute respiratory distress. Overall, this study revealed tissue involvement, provided insights into the mechanism of COVID-19 progression, and highlighted the utility of cfDNA as a noninvasive biomarker for disease severity inspections.

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