Molecular states during acute COVID-19 reveal distinct etiologies of long-term sequelae.

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Nature medicine


washington; isb; genomics; covid-19


Post-acute sequelae of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection are debilitating, clinically heterogeneous and of unknown molecular etiology. A transcriptome-wide investigation was performed in 165 acutely infected hospitalized individuals who were followed clinically into the post-acute period. Distinct gene expression signatures of post-acute sequelae were already present in whole blood during acute infection, with innate and adaptive immune cells implicated in different symptoms. Two clusters of sequelae exhibited divergent plasma-cell-associated gene expression patterns. In one cluster, sequelae associated with higher expression of immunoglobulin-related genes in an anti-spike antibody titer-dependent manner. In the other, sequelae associated independently of these titers with lower expression of immunoglobulin-related genes, indicating lower non-specific antibody production in individuals with these sequelae. This relationship between lower total immunoglobulins and sequelae was validated in an external cohort. Altogether, multiple etiologies of post-acute sequelae were already detectable during SARS-CoV-2 infection, directly linking these sequelae with the acute host response to the virus and providing early insights into their development.


Infectious Diseases