I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 20 Jan 2024 - 26 Jan 2024

2024 Jan 11



SARS-CoV-2 papain-like protease activates nociceptors to drive sneeze and pain.


Mali SS, Silva R, Gong Z, Cronce M, Vo U, Vuong C, Moayedi Y, Cox JS, Bautista DM


SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, triggers symptoms such as sneezing, aches and pain. These symptoms are mediated by a subset of sensory neurons, known as nociceptors, that detect noxious stimuli, densely innervate the airway epithelium, and interact with airway resident epithelial and immune cells. However, the mechanisms by which viral infection activates these neurons to trigger pain and airway reflexes are unknown. Here, we show that the coronavirus papain-like protease (PLpro) directly activates airway-innervating trigeminal and vagal nociceptors in mice and human iPSC-derived nociceptors. PLpro elicits sneezing and acute pain in mice and triggers the release of neuropeptide calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP) from airway afferents. We find that PLpro-induced sneeze and pain requires the host TRPA1 ion channel that has been previously demonstrated to mediate pain, cough, and airway inflammation. Our findings are the first demonstration of a viral product that directly activates sensory neurons to trigger pain and airway reflexes and highlight a new role for PLpro and nociceptors in COVID-19.