Title : Identification of microRNAs dysregulated in SARS-CoV-2 infected patients in the ethnically-diverse population of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)
The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) has infected more than 760 million people globally with over 6.8 million deaths to date due to COVID-19. Alteration of the host immune system upon infection can lead to multi-organ failure followed by critical pathological consequences at both clinical as well as molecular levels. Our study aimed to identify differentially-regulated microRNAs (miRNAs) in SARSCoV-2-infected (COVID-19-positive), ethnically-mixed population in the United Arab Emirates. miRNAseq was used to identify the dysregulated miRNAs in nasal swab samples collected from COVID-19 patients in the Emirate of Dubai. This was accomplished by recruiting 25 healthy controls and 132 infected patients diagnosed with either mild, moderate, or severe COVID-19 or those who had recovered from the disease. Several bioinformatics tools were used to predict the target genes followed by network analysis. Out of 1818 detected miRNAs, 85 were detected as differentially regulated miRNAs with FC≥1 and 48 with FC≥2. GO and pathway analysis of the possible target genes regulated by these miRNAs revealed changes in various pathways, including MAPK signaling, endocytosis, endocrine resistance, Ras signaling, Wnt signaling, EGFR signaling and prolactin signaling. Most of the target genes belonged to biological process like neurogenesis, transcription, transcriptional regulation and host-virus interaction. Activation of these processes could be linked to various disorders like cancer, aging, immune response and dysregulated nervous system. Expression profile of at least 22 differentially-regulated miRNAs was identified from our study which agreed with previously-published reports despite the diversity of our patient population, differences in their disease severity, and differences in the viral strain dominant at the time of sample collection. Thus, these miRNAs may reflect those associated with viral infection, while others may correlate better with disease severity. Due to the diversity of ethnicities in the UAE representing people from 196 countries, we believe that our results may reflect a more significant correlation of miRNAs with SARS-CoV-2 infected patients than those from regions with more homogeneous populations.
Audience take away
• The audience will learn about virus-host interactions and how miRNAs control cellular and viral gene expression as well as pathogenesis.
• In particular, they will learn about how miRNAs are differentially-expressed in SARS-CoV-2 infection of humans during different disease stages and upon recovery.
• Other researchers can study similar interactions in their systems to see how their virus replication is affected by host and viral miRNAs and disease profile.
• miRNAs can be used as biomarkers for disease diagnosis, disease stage, or disease severity. Furthermore, miRNA-based anti-sense can be developed as therapeutics to inhibit infection and reduce disease severity.