Mol Psychiatry

. 2022 Jan 12.
doi: 10.1038/s41380-021-01431-4. Online ahead of print.
In COVID-19, NLRP3 inflammasome genetic variants are associated with critical disease and these effects are partly mediated by the sickness symptom complex: a nomothetic network approach

Michael Maes 1 2 3 , Walton Luiz Del Tedesco Junior 4 , Marcell Alysson Batisti Lozovoy 5 6 , Mayara Tiemi Enokida Mori 5 , Tiago Danelli 5 , Elaine Regina Delicato de Almeida 6 , Alexandre Mestre Tejo 4 , Zuleica Naomi Tano 4 , Edna Maria Vissoci Reiche 5 6 , Andréa Name Colado Simão 5 6



In coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the nucleotide-binding domain, leucine-rich repeat and pyrin domain-containing protein 3 (NLRP3) inflammasome is activated in response to severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) infection. Acute infections are accompanied by a sickness symptom complex (SSC) which is highly conserved and protects against infections and hyperinflammation. The aim of this study is to delineate the associations of COVID-19, SSC and NLPR3 rs10157379 T > C and NLPR3 rs10754558 C > G variants; and the protective role of SSC in SARS-CoV-2 infection. We recruited COVID-19 patients, 308 with critical, 63 with moderate and 157 with mild disease. Increased SSC protects against SARS, critical disease, and death due to COVID-19. Increasing age, male sex and rs10754558 CG significantly reduce SSC protection. The rs10157379 CT and rs10754558 GG genotypes are positively associated with SARS. Partial Least Squares analysis shows that a) 41.8% of the variance in critical COVID-19 symptoms is explained by SSC and oxygen saturation (inversely associated), inflammation, chest computed tomography abnormalities, increased body mass index, SARS and age (positively associated); and b) the effects of the NLRP3 rs10157379 and rs10754558 variants on critical COVID-19 are mediated via SSC (protective) and SARS (detrimental). SSC includes anosmia and dysgeusia, and maybe gastrointestinal symptoms. In conclusion, intersections among the rs10754558 variant, age, and sex increase risk towards critical COVID-19 by attenuating SSC. NLRP3 variants play an important role in SARS, and severe and critical COVID-19 especially in elderly male individuals with reduced SSC and with increased BMI, hypertension, and diabetes type 2.