Motivation: Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection (coronavirus disease, 2019; COVID-19) is associated with adverse outcomes in patients. It has been observed that lethality seems to be related to the age of patients. While ageing has been extensively demonstrated to be accompanied by some modifications at the gene expression level, a possible link with COVID-19 manifestation still need to be investigated at the molecular level. Objectives: This study aims to shed out light on a possible link between the increased COVID-19 lethality and the molecular changes that occur in elderly people. Methods: We considered public datasets of ageing-related genes and their expression at the tissue level. We selected human proteins interacting with viral ones that are known to be related to the ageing process. Finally, we investigated changes in the expression level of coding genes at the tissue, gender and age level. Results: We observed a significant intersection between some SARS-CoV-2 interactors and ageing-related genes, suggesting that those genes are particularly affected by COVID-19 infection. Our analysis evidenced that virus infection particularly involves ageing molecular mechanisms centred around proteins EEF2, NPM1, HMGA1, HMGA2, APEX1, CHEK1, PRKDC, and GPX4. We found that HMGA1 and NPM1 have different expressions in the lung of males, while HMGA1, APEX1, CHEK1, EEF2, and NPM1 present changes in expression in males due to ageing effects. Conclusion: Our study generated a mechanistic framework to clarify the correlation between COVID-19 incidence in elderly patients and molecular mechanisms of ageing. We also provide testable hypotheses for future investigation and pharmacological solutions tailored to specific age ranges.
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