Human Cardiac Pericytes and Their Susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 Infection: A Detailed Analysis
In the context of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, understanding how SARS-CoV-2 affects various cell types in the human body is crucial. A recent study provides critical insights into the susceptibility of human cardiac pericytes to SARS-CoV-2 infection and its implications.
- SARS-CoV-2 Infects Cardiac Pericytes: The study demonstrates that SARS-CoV-2 can infect and replicate within human cardiac pericytes, both in organotypic cardiac slices and primary cell cultures. These pericytes are essential for supporting endothelial cells and maintaining vascular integrity.
- Pathway of Infection: Viral entry into cardiac pericytes is mediated by ACE2 receptors and endosomal proteases. Once infected, these pericytes show an up-regulation of inflammatory chemokines and cytokines, type I interferon (IFN) signaling mediators, and NF-kB–dependent cell death.
- Cardiovascular Complications in COVID-19: The study aligns with other observations showing severe cardiovascular complications in COVID-19 patients, such as myocardial damage, myocarditis, arrhythmias, heart failure, and thrombosis. These complications may be linked to endothelial inflammation and dysfunction caused by the virus.
- Inflammation and Vascular Responses: Infected cardiac pericytes exhibit inflammatory and vasoactive responses, altering endothelial cell transcription. This suggests a mechanism by which SARS-CoV-2 infection could contribute to cardiovascular manifestations in COVID-19 patients.
- Evidence from COVID-19 Patients: Autopsy samples from COVID-19 patients with myocarditis showed evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection in cardiac pericytes, further supporting the study’s findings.
This study highlights the role of cardiac pericytes as a target for SARS-CoV-2, potentially contributing to the vascular manifestations of COVID-19, including thrombosis and inflammation. The ability of the virus to infect these cells and induce a series of inflammatory and vasoactive responses provides a new perspective on the cardiovascular complications associated with COVID-19. Understanding these mechanisms is crucial for developing targeted therapies and managing the long-term cardiovascular impacts of the pandemic.