SARS-CoV-2 infection perturbs enhancer mediated transcriptional regulation of key pathways

Yahel Yedidya, Daniel Davis, Yotam Drier

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Despite extensive studies on the effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection, there is still a lack of understanding of the downstream epigenetic and regulatory alterations in infected cells. In this study, we investigated changes in enhancer acetylation in epithelial lung cells infected with SARS-CoV-2 and their influence on transcriptional regulation and pathway activity. To achieve this, we integrated and reanalyzed data of enhancer acetylation, ex-vivo infection and single cell RNA-seq data from human patients. Our findings revealed coordinated changes in enhancers and transcriptional networks. We found that infected cells lose the WT1 transcription factor and demonstrate disruption of WT1-bound enhancers and of their associated target genes. Downstream targets of WT1 are involved in the regulation of the Wnt signaling and the mitogen-activated protein kinase cascade, which indeed exhibit increased activation levels. These findings may provide a potential explanation for the development of pulmonary fibrosis, a lethal complication of COVID-19. Moreover, we revealed over-acetylated enhancers associated with upregulated genes involved in cell adhesion, which could contribute to cell-cell infection of SARS-CoV-2. Furthermore, we demonstrated that enhancers may play a role in the activation of pro-inflammatory cytokines and contribute to excessive inflammation in the lungs, a typical complication of COVID-19. Overall, our analysis provided novel insights into the cell-autonomous dysregulation of enhancer regulation caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection, a step on the path to a deeper molecular understanding of the disease.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere1011397
JournalPLoS Computational Biology
Issue number8 August
StatePublished - Aug 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Genetics
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Cellular and Molecular Neuroscience
  • Molecular Biology
  • Ecology
  • Computational Theory and Mathematics
  • Modelling and Simulation


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