Modulation of host epigenome by coronavirus infections and developing treatment modalities for COVID-19 beyond genetics

Publication Name

European Review for Medical and Pharmacological Sciences


The recent Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) outbreak has resulted in coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic worldwide, affecting millions of lives. Although vaccines are presently made available, and vaccination drive is in progress to immunize a larger population; still the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and related mortality is persistent amid threats of the third wave of the ongoing pandemic. In the scenario of unavailabil-ity of robust and efficient treatment modalities, it becomes essential to understand the mechanism of action of the virus and deeply study the molecular mechanisms (both at the virus level and the host level) underlying the infection processes. Recent studies have shown that coronaviruses (CoVs) cause-specific epigenetic changes in the host cells to create a conducive microenvironment for replicating, assembling, and spreading. Epigenetic mechanisms can contribute to various aspects of the SARS-CoV-2 multiplication cycle, like expressing cytokine genes, viral receptor ACE2, and implicating different histone modifications. For SARS-CoV-2 infection, viral proteins are physically associated with various host proteins resulting in numerous interactions between epigenetic enzymes (i.e., histone deacetylases, bromodomain-containing proteins). The involvement of epigenetic mechanisms in the virus life cycle and the host immune responses to control infection result in epigenetic factors recognized as emerging prognostic COVID-19 biomarkers and epigenetic modulators as robust therapeutic targets to curb COVID-19. Therefore, this narrative review aimed to summarize and discuss the various epigenetic mechanisms that control gene expression and how these mechanisms are altered in the host cells during coronavirus infection. We also discuss the opportunities to exploit these epigenetic changes as therapeutic targets for SARS-CoV-2 infection. Epigenetic alterations and regulation play a pivotal role at various levels of coronavirus infection: Entry, replication/transcription, and the process of maturation of viral proteins. Coronaviruses modulate the host epigenome to escape the host immune mechanisms. Therefore, host epigenetic alterations induced by CoVs can be considered to develop targeted therapies for COVID-19.

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