COVID-19 is caused by SARS-CoV-2 (SC2) and is more prevalent and severe in elderly and patients with comorbid diseases (CM). Because chitinase 3-like-1 (CHI3L1) is induced during aging and CM, the relationships between CHI3L1 and SC2 were investigated. Here, we demonstrate that CHI3L1 is a potent stimulator of the SC2 receptor angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and viral spike protein priming proteases (SPP), that ACE2 and SPP are induced during aging, and that anti-CHI3L1, kasugamycin, and inhibitors of phosphorylation abrogate these ACE2- and SPP-inductive events. Human studies also demonstrate that the levels of circulating CHI3L1 are increased in the elderly and patients with CM, where they correlate with COVID-19 severity. These studies demonstrate that CHI3L1 is a potent stimulator of ACE2 and SPP, that this induction is a major mechanism contributing to the effects of aging during SC2 infection, and that CHI3L1 co-opts the CHI3L1 axis to augment SC2 infection. CHI3L1 plays a critical role in the pathogenesis of and is an attractive therapeutic target in COVID-19.
Suchitra Kamle, Bing Ma, Chuan Hua He, Bedia Akosman, Yang Zhou, Chang-Min Lee, Wafik S. El-Deiry, Kelsey Huntington, Olin Liang, Jason T. Machan, Min-Jong Kang, Hyeon Jun Shin, Emiko Mizoguchi, Chun Geun Lee, Jack A. Elias