Nunez-Castilla et al.: "Potential autoimmunity resulting from molecular mimicry between SARS-CoV-2 Spike and human proteins"; discovered molecular mimicry hotspots in Spike
by Paul Alexander
Molecular mimicry between viral antigens and host proteins can produce cross-reacting antibodies leading to autoimmunity.
Molecular mimicry between viral antigens and host proteins can produce cross-reacting antibodies leading to autoimmunity. The coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 causes COVID-19, a disease curiously resulting in varied symptoms and outcomes, ranging from asymptomatic to fatal.
Autoimmunity due to cross-reacting antibodies resulting from molecular mimicry between viral antigens and host proteins may provide an explanation. Thus, we computationally investigated molecular mimicry between SARS-CoV-2 Spike and known epitopes. We discovered molecular mimicry hotspots in Spike and highlight two examples with tentative high autoimmune potential and implications for understanding COVID-19 complications.
We show that a TQLPP motif in Spike and thrombopoietin shares similar antibody binding properties. Antibodies cross-reacting with thrombopoietin may induce thrombocytopenia, a condition observed in COVID-19 patients. Another motif, ELDKY, is shared in multiple human proteins, such as PRKG1 involved in platelet activation and calcium regulation, and tropomyosin, which is linked to cardiac disease.
Antibodies cross-reacting with PRKG1 and tropomyosin may cause known COVID-19 complications such as blood-clotting disorders and cardiac disease, respectively. Our findings illuminate COVID-19 pathogenesis and highlight the importance of considering autoimmune potential when developing therapeutic interventions to reduce adverse reactions.