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COVID-19 is accompanied by a myriad of both transient and long-lasting autoimmune responses. Dermatan sulfate (DS), a glycosaminoglycan crucial for wound healing, has unique affinity for autoantigens (autoAgs) from apoptotic cells. DS-autoAg complexes are capable of stimulating autoreactive B cells and autoantibody production. We used DS-affinity proteomics to define the autoantigen-ome of lung fibroblasts and bioinformatics analyses to study the relationship between autoantigenic proteins and COVID-induced alterations. Using DS-affinity, we identified an autoantigen-ome of 408 proteins from human HFL1 cells, at least 231 of which are known autoAgs. Comparing with available COVID data, 352 proteins of the autoantigen-ome have thus far been found to be altered at protein or RNA levels in SARS-CoV-2 infection, 210 of which are known autoAgs. The COVID-altered proteins are significantly associated with RNA metabolism, translation, vesicles and vesicle transport, cell death, supramolecular fibrils, cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix, and interleukin signaling. They offer clues to neurological problems, fibrosis, smooth muscle dysfunction, and thrombosis. In particular, 150 altered proteins are related to the nervous system, including axon, myelin sheath, neuron projection, neuronal cell body, and olfactory bulb. An association with the melanosome is also identified. The findings from our study illustrate a connection between COVID infection and autoimmunity. The vast number of COVID-altered proteins with high intrinsic propensity to become autoAgs offers an explanation for the diverse autoimmune complications in COVID patients. The variety of autoAgs related to mRNA metabolism, translation, and vesicles suggests a need for long-term monitoring of autoimmunity in COVID. The COVID autoantigen atlas we are establishing provides a detailed molecular map for further investigation of autoimmune sequelae of the pandemic, such as "long COVID" syndrome. An autoantigen-ome by dermatan sulfate affinity from human lung HFL1 cells may explain neurological and autoimmune manifestations of COVID-19. Copyright © 2022 Wang, Zhang, Roehrl, Roehrl and Roehrl.


Julia Y Wang, Wei Zhang, Victor B Roehrl, Michael W Roehrl, Michael H Roehrl. An Autoantigen Atlas From Human Lung HFL1 Cells Offers Clues to Neurological and Diverse Autoimmune Manifestations of COVID-19. Frontiers in immunology. 2022;13:831849

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PMID: 35401574

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