COVID-19 cytokines and the hyperactive immune response: Synergism of TNF-α and IFN-γ in triggering inflammation, tissue damage, and death.

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Rajendra KarkiThirumala-Devi Kanneganti


The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant morbidity and mortality. Currently, there is a critical shortage of proven treatment options and an urgent need to understand the pathogenesis of multi-organ failure and lung damage. Cytokine storm is associated with severe inflammation and organ damage during COVID-19. However, a detailed molecular pathway defining this cytokine storm is lacking, and gaining mechanistic understanding of how SARS-CoV-2 elicits a hyperactive inflammatory response is critical to develop effective therapeutics. Of the multiple inflammatory cytokines produced by innate immune cells during SARS-CoV-2 infection, we found that the combined production of TNF-α and IFN-γ specifically induced inflammatory cell death, PANoptosis, characterized by gasdermin-mediated pyroptosis, caspase-8-mediated apoptosis, and MLKL-mediated necroptosis. Deletion of pyroptosis, apoptosis, or necroptosis mediators individually was not sufficient to protect against cell death. However, cells deficient in both RIPK3 and caspase-8 or RIPK3 and FADD were resistant to this cell death. Mechanistically, the STAT1/IRF1 axis activated by TNF-α and IFN-γ co-treatment induced iNOS for the production of nitric oxide. Pharmacological and gene...Continue Reading


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Apoptosis is a specific process that leads to programmed cell death through the activation of an evolutionary conserved intracellular pathway leading to pathognomic cellular changes distinct from cellular necrosis