Mechanism for SARS-CoV-2 virus damaging human lung cells

Posted Dec 3, 2020 by Tim Sandle
Scientists have identified how the SARS-CoV-2 virus (the novel coronavirus) hijacks and proceeds to rapidly cause damage to the cells that line human lungs.
A transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles  isolated from a patient  captured ...
A transmission electron micrograph of SARS-CoV-2 virus particles, isolated from a patient, captured and color-enhanced
Handout, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/AFP/File
The new study centers on identifying the host proteins and pathways within human lung cells and with understanding how the levels change when a person is infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This has enabled Boston University School of Medicine researchers to provide insights into disease pathology.
The significance of the research is to identify clinically approved medications. Several of these have the potential to be re-purposed for COVID-19 patient treatment.
The scientists located a special type of protein modification step referred to as "phosphorylation" (a phosphate group is added to a molecule) . This process appears to become aberrant in lung cells that become infected virus. The process of phosphorylation of proteins is one that is important in regulating the protein function inside the body cells.
It was found that the virus SARS-CoV-2 triggers lung cells to enter a state disarray. The impact of this is to trigger abnormal changes to occur in protein amounts. Also disrupted is the frequency of protein phosphorylation occurring inside these cells. By affecting these process, the changes aid the virus in undergoing multiplication. This is to the extent that thousands of proteins and phosphorylation events are altered. Many of these changes take place rapidly, moving through a sequence of events occurring at one, three and six hours after infection.
Furthermore, the continuation of the process will eventually lead to the destruction of cell. Where too many cells are damaged, this can causes widespread lung injury.
The research has been published in the journal Molecular Cell, with the research is titled "Actionable Cytopathogenic Host Responses of Human Alveolar Type 2 Cells to SARS-CoV-2."