SARS-CoV-2 induced changes in the glycosylation pattern in the respiratory tract of Golden Syrian hamsters

Even after more than two years of intensive research, not all of the pathophysiological processes of Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), induced by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus type 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection, have been fully elucidated. The initial virus-host interaction at the respiratory epithelium plays a crucial role in the course and progression of the infection, and is highly dependent on the glycosylation pattern of the host cell and of the secreted mucins. Glycans are polysaccharides that can be attached to proteins and thereby add to their stability and functionality. Lectins are glycan-binding proteins that recognize specific glycan motifs, and lectin histochemistry is a suitable tool to visualize and examine glycosylation pattern changes in tissues. In this study we used lectins with different glycan-specificities for the visualization of glycosylation pattern changes in the respiratory tract of SARS-CoV-2 infected Golden Syrian hamsters. While some lectins (LEL, STL) enable the visualization of the damage to alveolar type 1 pneumocytes, other lectins, e.g., GSLI, visualized the loss and subsequent hyperplasia of type 2 pneumocytes. UEAI staining was co-localized with KI67, a proliferation marker. Double staining of lectins LEL, STL and WGA with specific immune cell markers (Iba1, CD68) showed co-localization and the dominant infiltration of monocyte-derived macrophages into infected alveolar tissue. The elucidation of the glycosylation pattern of the respiratory tract cells in uninfected and infected Golden Syrian hamsters revealed physiological and pathological aspects of the disease that may open new possibilities for therapeutic development.



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