Single-cell integration of inflammatory diseases and COVID-19 from diseased tissues

Immunosuppressive and anti-cytokine treatment may have a protective effect for patients with COVID-19. Understanding the immune cell states shared between COVID-19 and other inflammatory diseases with established therapies may help nominate immunomodulatory therapies. Using an integrative strategy, we built a reference by meta-analyzing > 300,000 immune cells from COVID-19 and 5 inflammatory diseases including rheumatoid arthritis (RA), Crohn’s disease (CD), ulcerative colitis (UC), lupus, and interstitial lung disease. Our cross-disease analysis revealed that an FCN1+ inflammatory macrophage state is common to COVID-19 bronchoalveolar lavage samples, RA synovium, CD ileum, and UC colon. We also observed that a CXCL10+ CCL2+ inflammatory macrophage state is abundant in severe COVID-19, inflamed CD and RA, and expresses inflammatory genes such as GBP1, STAT1, and IL1B. We found that the CXCL10+ CCL2+ macrophages are transcriptionally similar to blood-derived macrophages stimulated with TNF-α and IFN-γ ex vivo. Our findings suggest that IFN-γ, alongside TNF-α, might be a key driver of this abundant inflammatory macrophage phenotype in severe COVID-19 and other inflammatory diseases, which may be targeted by existing immunomodulatory therapies.

The preprint version is: Zhang, Fan, et al. “IFN-γ and TNF-α drive a CXCL10+ CCL2+ macrophage phenotype expanded in severe COVID-19 and other diseases with tissue inflammation.” bioRxiv (2020).

Fan Zhang
Computational Biologist