Publication date: Jun 15, 2023
Alcohol abuse causes increased susceptibility to respiratory syndromes like bacterial pneumonia and viral infections like SARS-CoV-2. Heavy drinkers (HD) are at higher risk of severe COVID-19 if they are also overweight, yet the molecular mechanisms are unexplored. Single-cell RNA-seq (scRNA-seq) was performed on peripheral blood mononuclear cells from lean or overweight HD and healthy controls (HC) after challenge with a dsRNA homopolymer (PolyI:C) to mimic a viral infection and/or with lipopolysaccharide (LPS). All monocyte populations responded to both PolyI:C and LPS with pro-inflammatory gene expression. However, expression of interferon stimulated genes, essential for inhibiting viral pathogenesis, was greatly reduced in overweight patients. Interestingly, the number of upregulated genes in response to PolyI:C challenge was far greater in monocytes from HD compared to HC, including much stronger pro-inflammatory cytokine and interferon-γ signaling responses. These results suggest increased body weight reduced anti-viral responses while heavy drinking increased pro-inflammatory cytokines.
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