Research Papers: Immunology:

Middle east respiratory syndrome corona virus spike glycoprotein suppresses macrophage responses via DPP4-mediated induction of IRAK-M and PPARγ

Ahmed A. Al-Qahtani, Konstantina Lyroni, Marina Aznaourova, Melpomeni Tseliou, Mashael R. Al-Anazi, Mohammed N. Al-Ahdal, Saad Alkahtani, George Sourvinos and Christos Tsatsanis _

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Oncotarget. 2017; 8:9053-9066. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.14754

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Ahmed A. Al-Qahtani1,2, Konstantina Lyroni3, Marina Aznaourova3, Melpomeni Tseliou4, Mashael R. Al-Anazi1, Mohammed N. Al-Ahdal1,2, Saad Alkahtani5, George Sourvinos4,* and Christos Tsatsanis3,*

1 Department of Infection and Immunity, Research Center, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center, Saudi Arabia

2 Department of Microbiology and Immunology, School of Medicine, Alfaisal University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

3 Laboratory of Clinical Chemistry, Medical School, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece

4 Laboratory of Virology, Medical School, University of Crete, Heraklion, Greece

5 Zoology Department, College of Science, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

* These authors have contributed equally to this work

Correspondence to:

Christos Tsatsanis, email:

George Sourvinos, email:

Keywords: MERS CoV, macrophages, DPP4, IRAK-M, cytokines, Immunology and Microbiology Section, Immune response, Immunity

Received: July 22, 2016 Accepted: January 10, 2017 Published: January 19, 2017


Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona Virus (MERS-CoV) is transmitted via the respiratory tract and causes severe Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome by infecting lung epithelial cells and macrophages. Macrophages can readily recognize the virus and eliminate it. MERS-CoV infects cells via its Spike (S) glycoprotein that binds on Dipeptidyl-Peptidase 4 (DPP4) receptor present on macrophages. Whether this Spike/DPP4 association affects macrophage responses remains unknown. Herein we demonstrated that infection of macrophages with lentiviral particles pseudotyped with MERS-CoV S glycoprotein results in suppression of macrophage responses since it reduced the capacity of macrophages to produce TNFα and IL-6 in naive and LPS-activated THP-1 macrophages and augmented LPS-induced production of the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10. MERS-CoV S glycoprotein induced the expression of the negative regulator of TLR signaling IRAK-M as well as of the transcriptional repressor PPARγ. Inhibition of DPP4 by its inhibitor sitagliptin or siRNA abrogated the effects of MERS-CoV S glycoprotein on IRAK-M, PPARγ and IL-10, confirming that its immunosuppressive effects were mediated by DPP4 receptor. The effect was observed both in THP-1 macrophages and human primary peripheral blood monocytes. These findings support a DPP4-mediated suppressive action of MERS-CoV in macrophages and suggest a potential target for effective elimination of its pathogenicity.

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