Upregulation of oxidative stress gene markers during SARS-COV-2 viral infection

Narjes Saheb Sharif-Askari, Fatemeh Saheb Sharif-Askari, Bushra Mdkhana, Hawra Ali Hussain Alsayed, Habiba Alsafar, Zeyad Faoor Alrais, Qutayba Hamid, Rabih Halwani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Severe viral infections, including SARS-COV-2, could trigger disruption of the balance between pro-oxidant and antioxidant mediators; the magnitude of which could reflect the severity of infection and lung injury. Using publicly available COVID-19 transcriptomic datasets, we conducted an in-silico analyses to evaluate the expression levels of 125 oxidative stress genes, including 37 pro-oxidant genes, 32 oxidative-responsive genes, and 56 antioxidant genes. Seven oxidative stress genes were found to be upregulated in whole blood and lung autopsies (MPO, S100A8, S100A9, SRXN1, GCLM, SESN2, and TXN); these genes were higher in severe versus non-severe COVID-19 leucocytes. Oxidative genes were upregulated in inflammatory cells comprising macrophages and CD8+ T cells isolated from bronchioalveolar fluid (BALF), and neutrophils isolated from peripheral blood. MPO, S100A8, and S100A9 were top most upregulated oxidative markers within COVID-19's lung autopsies, whole blood, leucocytes, BALF derived macrophages and circulating neutrophils. The calprotectin's, S100A8 and S100A9 were upregulated in SARS-COV-2 infected human lung epithelium. To validate our in-silico analysis, we conducted qRT-PCR to measure MPO and calprotectin's levels in blood and saliva samples. Relative to uninfected donor controls, MPO, S100A8 and S100A9 were significantly higher in blood and saliva of severe versus asymptomatic COVID-19 patients. Compared to other different viral respiratory infections, coronavirus infection showed a prominent upregulation in oxidative stress genes with MPO and calprotectin at the top of the list. In conclusion, SARS-COV-2 induce the expression of oxidative stress genes via both immune as well as lung structural cells. The observed correlation between oxidative stress genes dysregulation and COVID-19 disease severity deserve more attention. Mechanistical studies are required to confirm the correlation between oxidative stress gene dysregulation, COVID-19 severity, and the net oxidative stress balance.

Original languageBritish English
Pages (from-to)688-698
Number of pages11
JournalFree Radical Biology and Medicine
StatePublished - 20 Aug 2021


  • Antioxidant
  • Bioinformatics
  • Calprotectin
  • COVID-19
  • Lung autopsies
  • Myeloperoxidase
  • Neutrophils
  • Oxidative stress
  • Pro-oxidant
  • Respiratory viral infection
  • S100A8
  • S100A9
  • Saliva
  • SARS-COV-2


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