SARS-CoV-2 infection is associated with the hypercoagulable state. Tissue factor (TF) is the primary cellular initiator of coagulation. Most of the TF expressed on cell surfaces remains cryptic. Sphingomyelin (SM) is responsible for maintaining TF in the encrypted state, and hydrolysis of SM by acid sphingomyelinase (ASMase) increases TF activity. ASMase was shown to play a role in virus infection biology. In the present study, we investigated the role of ASMase in SARS-CoV-2 infection-induced TF procoagulant activity. Infection of human monocyte-derived macrophages (MDMs) with SARs-CoV-2 spike protein pseudovirus (SARS-CoV-2-SP-PV) markedly increased TF procoagulant activity at the cell surface and released TF+ extracellular vesicles (EVs). The pseudovirus infection did not increase either TF protein expression or phosphatidylserine externalization. SARS-CoV-2-SP-PV infection induced the translocation of ASMase to the outer leaflet of the plasma membrane, which led to the hydrolysis of SM in the membrane. Pharmacological inhibitors or genetic silencing of ASMase attenuated SARS-CoV-2-SP-PV-induced increased TF activity. Inhibition of SARS-CoV-2 receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme-2, attenuated SARS-CoV-2-SP-PV-induced increased TF activity. Overall, our data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection activates the coagulation by decrypting TF through activation of ASMase. Our data suggest that the FDA-approved functional inhibitors of ASMase may help treat hypercoagulability in COVID-19 patients.
Jue Wang, Usha R Pendurthi, Guohua Yi, L Vijaya Mohan Rao