Viral illnesses like SARS-CoV-2 have pathologic effects on nonrespiratory organs in the absence of direct viral infection. We injected mice with cocktails of rodent equivalents of human cytokine storms resulting from SARS-CoV-2/COVID-19 or rhinovirus common cold infection. At low doses, COVID-19 cocktails induced glomerular injury and albuminuria in zinc fingers and homeoboxes 2 (Zhx2) hypomorph and Zhx2+/+ mice to mimic COVID-19–related proteinuria. Common Cold cocktail induced albuminuria selectively in Zhx2 hypomorph mice to model relapse of minimal change disease, which improved after depletion of TNF-α, soluble IL-4Rα, or IL-6. The Zhx2 hypomorph state increased cell membrane to nuclear migration of podocyte ZHX proteins in vivo (both cocktails) and lowered phosphorylated STAT6 activation (COVID-19 cocktail) in vitro. At higher doses, COVID-19 cocktails induced acute heart injury, myocarditis, pericarditis, acute liver injury, acute kidney injury, and high mortality in Zhx2+/+ mice, whereas Zhx2 hypomorph mice were relatively protected, due in part to early, asynchronous activation of STAT5 and STAT6 pathways in these organs. Dual depletion of cytokine combinations of TNF-α with IL-2, IL-13, or IL-4 in Zhx2+/+ mice reduced multiorgan injury and eliminated mortality. Using genome sequencing and CRISPR/Cas9, an insertion upstream of ZHX2 was identified as a cause of the human ZHX2 hypomorph state.
Maria Del Nogal Avila, Ranjan Das, Joubert Kharlyngdoh, Eduardo Molina-Jijon, Hector Donoro Blazquez, Stéphanie Gambut, Michael Crowley, David K. Crossman, Rasheed A. Gbadegesin, Sunveer S. Chugh, Sunjeet S. Chugh, Carmen Avila-Casado, Camille Macé, Lionel C. Clement, Sumant S. Chugh