Journal of virology

Overactive Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor Signaling Leads to Increased Fibrosis after Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus Infection.

PMID 28404843


Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) is a highly pathogenic respiratory virus that causes morbidity and mortality in humans. After infection with SARS-CoV, the acute lung injury caused by the virus must be repaired to regain lung function. A dysregulation in this wound healing process leads to fibrosis. Many survivors of SARS-CoV infection develop pulmonary fibrosis (PF), with higher prevalence in older patients. Using mouse models of SARS-CoV pathogenesis, we have identified that the wound repair pathway, controlled by the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR), is critical to recovery from SARS-CoV-induced tissue damage. In mice with constitutively active EGFR [EGFR(DSK5) mice], we find that SARS-CoV infection causes enhanced lung disease. Importantly, we show that during infection, the EGFR ligands amphiregulin and heparin-binding EGF-like growth factor (HB-EGF) are upregulated, and exogenous addition of these ligands during infection leads to enhanced lung disease and altered wound healing dynamics. Our data demonstrate a key role of EGFR in the host response to SARS-CoV and how it may be implicated in lung disease induced by other highly pathogenic respiratory viruses.