Chemokines, soluble PD-L1, and immune cell hyporesponsiveness are distinct features of SARS-CoV-2 critical illness

Aug. 3, 2022
This study is published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Critically ill patients manifest many of the same immune features seen in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including both “cytokine storm” and “immune suppression.” However, direct comparisons of molecular and cellular profiles between contemporaneously enrolled critically ill patients with and without severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) are limited.

Researchers sought to identify immune signatures specifically enriched in critically ill patients with COVID-19 compared with patients without COVID-19. The findings of this study were published in the American Journal of Physiology.

Researchers enrolled a multisite prospective cohort of patients admitted under suspicion for COVID-19, who were then determined to be SARS-CoV-2-positive (n = 204) or -negative (n = 122). SARS-CoV-2-positive patients had higher plasma levels of CXCL10, sPD-L1, IFN-γ, CCL26, C-reactive protein (CRP), and TNF-α relative to SARS-CoV-2-negative patients adjusting for demographics and severity of illness (Bonferroni P value < 0.05). In contrast, the levels of IL-6, IL-8, IL-10, and IL-17A were not significantly different between the two groups. In SARS-CoV-2-positive patients, higher plasma levels of sPD-L1 and TNF-α were associated with fewer ventilator-free days (VFDs) and higher mortality rates (Bonferroni P value < 0.05). Lymphocyte chemoattractants such as CCL17 were associated with more severe respiratory failure in SARS-CoV-2-positive patients, but less severe respiratory failure in SARS-CoV-2-negative patients (P value for interaction < 0.01). Circulating T cells and monocytes from SARS-CoV-2-positive subjects were hyporesponsive to in vitro stimulation compared with SARS-CoV-2-negative subjects. Critically ill SARS-CoV-2-positive patients exhibit an immune signature of high interferon-induced lymphocyte chemoattractants (e.g., CXCL10 and CCL17) and immune cell hyporesponsiveness when directly compared with SARS-CoV-2-negative patients. This suggests a specific role for T-cell migration coupled with an immune-checkpoint regulatory response in COVID-19-related critical illness.

Read the full study here