New findings from Flinders University have shown a molecular link between COVID-19 and serotonin cells in the gut.
The study could help provide further clues as to what could be causing COVID-19 infection and disease severity, and supports previous evidence that antidepressants, known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), can reduce the severity of COVID-19. symptoms could be reduced.
COVID-19 presents a range of symptoms, including frequent gastrointestinal problems such as diarrhea. Recent research has shown that these gut symptoms worsen with disease severity in COVID-19 patients, and this has been linked to increased gut-derived serotonin, released to cause gut disturbances, boost the body’s immune response, and potentially improve outcomes. deteriorate for the patient.
Published in the world’s leading gastrointestinal research journal gutThis new joint study involved three Flinders research teams, including teams led by ARC DECRA Fellow Dr. Alyce Martin and FAME Director of Bioinformatics and Human-Microbe Interactions, Professor Robert Edwards.
“Our study sought to understand whether the gut could be a site of disease transmission and which genes might be associated with the virus that invades the cells along the gut wall,” said the study’s lead author, Professor Damien Keating, deputy researcher. director of the Flinders Health and Medical Research Institute and head of the Gut Sensory Systems research group.
The researchers looked at gene expression between the different cell types that line the gut wall and analyzed whole genome sequences of thousands of individual cells from the gut.
They found that specialized cells in the gut that synthesized and released serotonin had highly enriched expression of a particular SARS-CoV-2 receptor and were the only type of cell expressing all of the genes associated with COVID-19.
“Many genes related to COVID-19 were expressed in the different cell types lining the gut wall, but only serotonin cells expressed all three receptors for the virus,” says Professor Keating.
“Expression of all three SARS-CoV-2 receptors triples the rate of cell infectivity, compared to the expression of just two receptors.”
While the exact sites of infection and the main causes of the severity of COVID-19 disease are not yet fully understood, the authors say this study provides important information about the role of the gut in the virus.
“Our study adds further evidence that COVID-19 is much more likely to infect cells in the gut and increase serotonin levels through direct effects on specific gut cells, potentially exacerbating disease outcomes,” said Professor Keating.
“It also provides further support for emerging clinical evidence that antidepressants, which block serotonin transport throughout the body, may serve as a beneficial treatment.
“As COVID-19 continues to circulate, further research will be needed to increase our understanding of the gut’s role in this virus and to continue to find treatment options that may work alongside vaccinations.”
The article ‘Single-cell gene expression links SARS-CoV-2 infection and gut serotonin’ by Alyce M Martin, Michael Roach, Lauren A Jones, Daniel Thorpe, Rosemary A Coleman, Caitlin Allman, Robert Edwards and Damien J Keating is published in the Journal gut. The research was supported by grants from the Australian Research Council.
Materials supplied by Flinders University. Note: Content is editable for style and length.