The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has caused over 5 million deaths worldwide. Pneumonia and systemic inflammation contribute to its high mortality. Many viruses use heparan sulfate proteoglycans as coreceptors for viral entry, and heparanase (HPSE) is a known regulator of both viral entry and inflammatory cytokines. We evaluated the heparanase inhibitor Roneparstat, a modified heparin with minimum anticoagulant activity, in pathophysiology and therapy for COVID-19. We found that Roneparstat significantly decreased the infectivity of SARS-CoV-2, SARS-CoV-1, and retroviruses (human Tlymphotropic virus 1 [HTLV-1] and HIV-1) in vitro. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) analysis of cells from the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid of COVID-19 patients revealed a marked increase in HPSE gene expression in CD681 macrophages compared to healthy controls. Elevated levels of HPSE expression in macrophages correlated with the severity of COVID-19 and the expression of inflammatory cytokine genes, including IL6, TNF, IL1B, and CCL2. In line with this finding, we found a marked induction of HPSE and numerous inflammatory cytokines in human macrophages challenged with SARS-CoV-2 S1 protein. Treatment with Roneparstat significantly attenuated SARS-CoV-2 S1 protein-mediated inflammatory cytokine release from human macrophages, through disruption of NF-k B signaling. HPSE knockdown in a macrophage cell line also showed diminished inflammatory cytokine production during S1 protein challenge. Taken together, this study provides a proof of concept that heparanase is a target for SARS-CoV-2-mediated pathogenesis and that Roneparstat may serve as a dual-targeted therapy to reduce viral infection and inflammation in COVID-19.
- SARSCoV- 2
- inflammatory cytokine release