HCG18, LEF1AS1 and lncCEACAM21 as biomarkers of disease severity in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of COVID-19 patients

Simona Greco*, Alisia Made’, Martina Mutoli, Lu Zhang, Santiago Nicolas Piella, Mélanie Vausort, Andrew I. Lumley, Antonio Paolo Beltrami, Prashant Kumar Srivastava, Valentina Milani, Sara Boveri, Marco Ranucci, Laura Valentina Renna, Hüseyin Firat, Antonino Bruno, Gaia Spinetti, Costanza Emanueli*, Yvan Devaux*, Fabio Martelli*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


Background: Even after 3 years from SARS-CoV-2 identification, COVID-19 is still a persistent and dangerous global infectious disease. Significant improvements in our understanding of the disease pathophysiology have now been achieved. Nonetheless, reliable and accurate biomarkers for the early stratification of COVID-19 severity are still lacking. Long noncoding RNAs (LncRNAs) are ncRNAs longer than 200 nucleotides, regulating the transcription and translation of protein‐coding genes and they can be found in the peripheral blood, thus holding a promising biomarker potential. Specifically, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) have emerged as a source of indirect biomarkers mirroring the conditions of tissues: they include monocytes, B and T lymphocytes, and natural killer T cells (NKT), being highly informative for immune-related events. Methods: We profiled by RNA-Sequencing a panel of 2906 lncRNAs to investigate their modulation in PBMCs of a pilot group of COVID-19 patients, followed by qPCR validation in 111 hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Results: The levels of four lncRNAs were found to be decreased in association with COVID-19 mortality and disease severity: HLA Complex Group 18-242 and -244 (HCG18-242 and HCG18-244), Lymphoid Enhancer Binding Factor 1-antisense 1 (LEF1-AS1) and lncCEACAM21 (i.e. ENST00000601116.5, a lncRNA in the CEACAM21 locus). Interestingly, these deregulations were confirmed in an independent patient group of hospitalized patients and by the re-analysis of publicly available single-cell transcriptome datasets. The identified lncRNAs were expressed in all of the PBMC cell types and inversely correlated with the neutrophil/lymphocyte ratio (NLR), an inflammatory marker. In vitro, the expression of LEF1-AS1 and lncCEACAM21 was decreased upon THP-1 monocytes exposure to a relevant stimulus, hypoxia. Conclusion: The identified COVID-19-lncRNAs are proposed as potential innovative biomarkers of COVID-19 severity and mortality.

Original languageEnglish
Article number758
Pages (from-to)758
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2023


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