Project ID CM-HD2024_64


Co Supervisor 1A Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, Peter Gorer Department of ImmunobiologyWebsite

Co Supervisor 1B Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, School of Immunology & Microbial Sciences, Department of Infectious DiseasesWebsite

From coronavirus to hyperinflammation: deciphering the role of lectin recognition in complement pathway activation and inflammation.

One of the first points of contact of pathogenic coronaviruses during infection is the lung alveolar epithelium. A consequence of infection of these cells is a dysregulated inflammatory response typified by hyper-production of inflammatory mediators that leads to an acute respiratory distress syndrome in severe cases of SARS-CoV-2. We believe that this ‘cytokine storm’ is initiated through the SARS-CoV-2 activation of the complement-lectin pathway (a signalling cascade that plays a crucial role in pathogen sensing and clearance and as a major inducer of other mediators of inflammation). We have biochemical and imaging evidence that SARS-CoV-2 activates the complement-lectin pathway to promote cell invasion of alveolar epithelial cells and generate proinflammatory complement peptides. However, our understanding of how the virus does this to facilitate infection and how the virus drives initiation and maintenance of an abnormal host inflammatory response is currently incomplete.

This project will use molecular and biochemical techniques together with cell-based models including human iPSC lines and imaging techniques to investigate the mechanisms and molecular interactions that underlie the response of alveolar epithelial cells to SARS-CoV-2. Findings from this project have the potential to lead new therapeutic approaches to coronavirus and other emerging pandemic viruses.

Year 1: will determine the molecular basis for the activation of the lectin complement pathway by SARS-CoV-2 structural proteins using biochemical, molecular, and pharmacological approaches.

Year 2: will define novel attachment receptors the virus exploits via lectin-complement pathway proteins at the alveolar epithelium to enhance ACE2-dependent infection using e.g. lentiviral overexpression, transfection based attachment receptor screens and siRNA/CRISPR-Cas9.

Year 3: will use in vitro co-culture with human monocyte, macrophage and iPSC lines to determine how complement activation in alveolar epithelial cells leads to the hyperinflammatory response.

This exciting project interfaces host-pathogen biology, complement biology and immunology and will encourage student growth and development in a supportive research environment.

Representative Publications

Sacks: C Farrar, D Tran, K Li, W Wu, Q. Peng, W Schwaeble, W Zhou, S Sacks. Collectin-11 detects stress-induced L-fucose pattern to trigger renal epithelial injury. Journal of Clinical Investigation 2016 2;126(5):1911-25. C Nauser , M Howard , G Fanelli, C A Farrar, S Sacks. Collectin-11 (CL-11) Is a Major Sentinel at Epithelial Surfaces and Key Pattern Recognition Molecule in Complement-Mediated Ischaemic Injury. (2018) Front Immunol. 6;9:2023 DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2018.02023
Klavinskis Polycarpou A, Howard M, Farrar CA, Greenlaw R, Fanelli G, Wallis R, Klavinskis LS, Sacks S (2020) Rationale for targeting complement in COVID-19. EMBO Mol Med. 2020 Aug 7;12(8):e12642. doi: 10.15252/emmm.202012642 A Polycarpou, S Grigoriadou, L Klavinskis, S Sacks. Does the Lectin Complement Pathway Link Kawasaki Disease and SARS-CoV-2? (2021). Front Immunol. Jan 14;11:604512. doi: 10.3389