Mitochondria are pivotal for bioenergetics, as well as in cellular response to viral infections. Nevertheless, their role in COVID-19 was largely overlooked. Here, we analyzed available bulk RNA-seq datasets from COVID-19 patients and corresponding healthy controls (three blood datasets, N = 48 healthy, 119 patients; two respiratory tract datasets, N = 157 healthy, 524 patients). We found significantly reduced mtDNA gene expression in blood, but not in respiratory tract samples from patients. Next, analysis of eight single-cells RNA-seq datasets from peripheral blood mononuclear cells, nasopharyngeal samples, and Bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (N = 1,192,243 cells), revealed significantly reduced mtDNA gene expression especially in immune system cells from patients. This is associated with elevated expression of nuclear DNA-encoded OXPHOS subunits, suggesting compromised mitochondrial-nuclear co-regulation. This, together with elevated expression of ROS-response genes and glycolysis enzymes in patients, suggest rewiring toward glycolysis, thus generating beneficial conditions for SARS-CoV-2 replication. Our findings underline the centrality of mitochondrial dysfunction in COVID-19.
- Immune system