Gene signatures and potential therapeutic targets of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)-infected human lung adenocarcinoma epithelial cells

Yen Hung Wu, I. Jeng Yeh, Nam Nhut Phan, Meng Chi Yen, Jui Hsiang Hung, Chung Chieh Chiao, Chien Fu Chen, Zhengda Sun, Hui Ping Hsu, Chih Yang Wang, Ming Derg Lai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Pathogenic coronaviruses include Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV), severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV), and SARS-CoV-2. These viruses have induced outbreaks worldwide, and there are currently no effective medications against them. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop potential drugs against coronaviruses. Methods: High-throughput technology is widely used to explore differences in messenger (m)RNA and micro (mi)RNA expression profiles, especially to investigate protein–protein interactions and search for new therapeutic compounds. We integrated miRNA and mRNA expression profiles in MERS-CoV-infected cells and compared them to mock-infected controls from public databases. Results: Through the bioinformatics analysis, there were 251 upregulated genes and eight highly differentiated miRNAs that overlapped in the two datasets. External validation verified that these genes had high expression in MERS-CoV-infected cells, including RC3H1, NF-κB, CD69, TNFAIP3, LEAP-2, DUSP10, CREB5, CXCL2, etc. We revealed that immune, olfactory or sensory system-related, and signal-transduction networks were discovered from upregulated mRNAs in MERS-CoV-infected cells. In total, 115 genes were predicted to be related to miRNAs, with the intersection of upregulated mRNAs and miRNA-targeting prediction genes such as TCF4, NR3C1, and POU2F2. Through the Connectivity Map (CMap) platform, we suggested potential compounds to use against MERS-CoV infection, including diethylcarbamazine, harpagoside, bumetanide, enalapril, and valproic acid. Conclusions: The present study illustrates the crucial roles of miRNA-mRNA interacting networks in MERS-CoV-infected cells. The genes we identified are potential targets for treating MERS-CoV infection; however, these could possibly be extended to other coronavirus infections.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)845-857
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Microbiology, Immunology and Infection
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2021


  • Bioinformatics
  • Connectivity map
  • Coronavirus
  • Lung adenocarcinoma
  • Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)
  • miRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Microbiology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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