Characterization of Unique Pathological Features of COVID-Associated Coagulopathy: Studies with AC70 hACE2 Transgenic Mice Highly Permissive to SARS-CoV-2 Infection

Aleksandra K. Drelich, Kempaiah Rayavara, Jason Hsu, Panatda Saenkham-Huntsinger, Barbara M. Judy, Vivian Tat, Thomas G. Ksiazek, Bihung Peng, Chien-Te Tseng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


COVID-associated coagulopathy seemly plays a key role in post-acute sequelae of SARSCoV- 2 infection. However, the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms are poorly understood, largely due to the lack of suitable animal models that recapitulate key clinical and pathological symptoms. Here, we fully characterized AC70 line of human ACE2 transgenic (AC70 hACE2 Tg) mice for SARS-CoV-2 infection. We noted that this model is highly permissive to SARS-CoV-2 with values of 50% lethal dose and infectious dose as - 3 and - 0.5 TCID50 of SARS-CoV-2, respectively. Mice infected with 105 TCID50 of SARS-CoV-2 rapidly succumbed to infection with 100% mortality within 5 days. Lung and brain were the prime tissues harboring high viral titers, accompanied by histopathology. However, viral RNA and inflammatory mediators could be detectable in other organs, suggesting the nature of a systemic infection. Lethal challenge of AC70 hACE2 Tg mice caused acute onset of leukopenia, lymphopenia, along with an increased neutrophil-to-lymphocyte ratio (NLR). Importantly, infected animals recapitulated key features of COVID-19-associated coagulopathy. SARSCoV- 2 could induce the release of circulating neutrophil extracellular traps (NETs), along with activated platelet/endothelium marker. Immunohistochemical staining with anti-platelet factor-4 (PF4) antibody revealed profound platelet aggregates especially within blocked veins of the lungs. We showed that acute SARS-CoV-2 infection triggered a hypercoagulable state coexisting with ill-regulated fibrinolysis. Finally, we highlighted the potential role of Annexin A2 (ANXA2) in fibrinolytic failure. ANXA2 is a calcium-dependent phospholipidbinding protein that forms a heterotertrameric complexes localized at the extracellular membranes with two S100A10 small molecules acting as a co-receptor for tissue-plasminogen activator (t-PA), tightly involved in cell surface fibrinolysis. Thus, our results revealing elevated IgG type anti-ANXA2 antibody production, downregulated de novo ANXA2/S100A10 synthesis, and reduced ANXA2/S100A10 association in infected mice, this protein might serve as druggable targets for development of antithrombotic and/or anti-fibrinolytic agents to attenuate pathogenesis of COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1011777
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number6 June
StatePublished - Jun 2024

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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