SARS-CoV-2 is the causative agent of COVID-19 that has infected over 642 million and killed over 6.6 million people around the globe. Underlying a wide range of clinical manifestations of this disease, from moderate to extremely severe systemic conditions, could be genes or pathways differentially expressing in the hosts. It is therefore important to gain insights into pathways involved in COVID-19 pathogenesis and host defense and thus understand the host response to this pathogen at the physiological and molecular level. To uncover genes and pathways involved in the differential clinical manifestations of this disease, we developed a novel gene co-expression network based pipeline that uses gene expression obtained from different SARS-CoV-2 infected human tissues. We leveraged the network to identify novel genes or pathways that likely differentially express and could be physiologically significant in the COVID-19 pathogenesis and progression but were deemed statistically non-significant and therefore not further investigated in the original studies. Our network-based approach aided in the identification of co-expression modules enriched in differentially expressing genes (DEGs) during different stages of COVID-19 and enabled discovery of novel genes involved in the COVID-19 pathogenesis, by virtue of their transcript abundance and association with genes expressing differentially in modules enriched in DEGs. We further prioritized by considering only those enriched gene modules that have most of their genes differentially expressed, inferred by the original studies or this study, and document here 7 novel genes potentially involved in moderate, 2 in severe, 48 in extremely severe COVID-19, and 96 novel genes involved in the progression of COVID-19 from severe to extremely severe conditions. Our study shines a new light on genes and their networks (modules) that drive the progression of COVID-19 from moderate to extremely severe condition. These findings could aid development of new therapeutics to combat COVID-19.

Fuente: Scientific Reports

Published: 21 December 2022|