Lien vers Pubmed [PMID] – 33024983
medRxiv 2020 Oct; ():
Lymphopenia due to a plummeting T-cell count is a major feature of severe COVID-19. T-cell proliferation is telomere length (TL)-dependent and TL shortens with age. Older persons are disproportionally affected by severe COVID-19, and we hypothesized that those with short TL have less capacity to mount an adequate T-cell proliferative response to SARS-CoV-2. This hypothesis predicts that among older patients with COVID-19, shorter telomeres of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) will be associated with a lower lymphocyte count.Our sample comprised 17 COVID-19 and 21 non-COVID-19 patients, aged 87(8) (mean(SD)) and 87 (9) years, respectively. We measured TL by the Telomere Shortest Length Assay, a novel method that measures and tallies the short telomeres directly relevant to telomere-mediated biological processes. The primary analysis quantified TL as the proportion of telomeres shorter than 2 kilobases. For comparison, we also quantified TL by Southern blotting, which measures the mean length of telomeres.Lymphocyte count (109/L) was 0.91 (0.42) in COVID-19 patients and 1.50(0.50) in non-COVID-19 patients (P < 0.001). In COVID-19 patients, but not in non-COVID-19 patients, lymphocyte count was inversely correlated with the proportion of telomeres shorter than 2 kilobases (P = 0.005) and positively correlated with the mean of telomeres measured by TeSLA (P = 0.03). Lymphocyte counts showed no statistically significant correlations with Southern blotting results in COVID-19 or non-COVID-19 patients.These results support the hypothesis that a compromised TL-dependent T-cell proliferative response contributes to lymphopenia and the resulting disproportionate severity of COVID-19 among old adults. We infer that infection with SARS-CoV-2 uncovers the limits of the TL reserves of older persons.