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Papers of the Week

2022 Apr 24


A human coronavirus OC43-derived polypeptide causes neuropathic pain.


Shubayev VI, Dolkas J, Ferreira Catroli G, Chernov AV
EMBO Rep. 2022 Apr 24:e54069.
PMID: 35466531.


Human coronaviruses have been recently implicated in neurological sequelae by insufficiently understood mechanisms. We here identify an amino acid sequence within the HCoV-OC43 p65-like protein homologous to the evolutionarily conserved motif of myelin basic protein (MBP). Because MBP-derived peptide exposure in the sciatic nerve produces pronociceptive activity in female rodents, we examined whether a synthetic peptide derived from the homologous region of HCoV-OC43 (OC43p) acts by molecular mimicry to promote neuropathic pain. OC43p, but not scrambled peptides, induces mechanical hypersensitivity in rats following intrasciatic injections. Transcriptome analyses of the corresponding spinal cords reveal upregulation of genes and signaling pathways with known nociception-, immune-, and cellular energy-related activities. Affinity capture shows the association of OC43p with an Na /K -transporting ATPase, providing a potential direct target and mechanistic insight into virus-induced effects on energy homeostasis and the sensory neuraxis. We propose that HCoV-OC43 polypeptides released during infection dysregulate normal nervous system functions through molecular mimicry of MBP, leading to mechanical hypersensitivity. Our findings might provide a new paradigm for virus-induced neuropathic pain.