IJMS, Vol. 24, Pages 12780: Epithelial Galectin-3 Induced the Mitochondrial Complex Inhibition and Cell Cycle Arrest of CD8+ T Cells in Severe/Critical COVID-19 (International Journal of Molecular Sciences)
Previous research suggested that the dramatical decrease in CD8+ T cells is a contributing factor in the poor prognosis and disease progression of COVID-19 patients. However, the underlying mechanisms are not fully understood. In this study, we conducted Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) and single-cell T cell receptor sequencing (scTCR-seq) analysis, which revealed a proliferative-exhausted MCM+FASLGlow CD8+ T cell phenotype in severe/critical COVID-19 patients. These CD8+ T cells were characterized by G2/M cell cycle arrest, downregulation of respiratory chain complex genes, and inhibition of mitochondrial biogenesis. CellChat analysis of infected lung epithelial cells and CD8+ T cells found that the galectin signaling pathway played a crucial role in CD8+ T cell reduction and dysfunction. To further elucidate the mechanisms, we established SARS-CoV-2 ORF3a-transfected A549 cells, and co-cultured them with CD8+ T cells for ex vivo experiments. Our results showed that epithelial galectin-3 inhibited the transcription of the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex III/IV genes of CD8+ T cells by suppressing the nuclear translocation of nuclear respiratory factor 1 (NRF1). Further findings showed that the suppression of NRF1 translocation was associated with ERK-related and Akt-related signaling pathways. Importantly, the galectin-3 inhibitor, TD-139, promoted nuclear translocation of NRF1, thus enhancing the expression of the mitochondrial respiratory chain complex III/IV genes and the mitochondrial biogenesis of CD8+ T cells. Our study provided new insights into the immunopathogenesis of COVID-19 and identified potential therapeutic targets for the prevention and treatment of severe/critical COVID-19 patients.