Spike Protein Impairs Mitochondrial Function in Human Cardiomyocytes: Mechanisms Underlying Cardiac Injury in COVID-19

Tin Van Huynh, Lekha Rethi, Ting-Wei Lee, Satoshi Higa, Yu-Hsun Kao, Yi-Jen Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: COVID-19 has a major impact on cardiovascular diseases and may lead to myocarditis or cardiac failure. The clove-like spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 facilitates its transmission and pathogenesis. Cardiac mitochondria produce energy for key heart functions. We hypothesized that S1 would directly impair the functions of cardiomyocyte mitochondria, thus causing cardiac dysfunction. Methods: Through the Seahorse Mito Stress Test and real-time ATP rate assays, we explored the mitochondrial bioenergetics in human cardiomyocytes (AC16). The cells were treated without (control) or with S1 (1 nM) for 24, 48, and 72 h and we observed the mitochondrial morphology using transmission electron microscopy and confocal fluorescence microscopy. Western blotting, XRhod-1, and MitoSOX Red staining were performed to evaluate the expression of proteins related to energetic metabolism and relevant signaling cascades, mitochondrial Ca2+ levels, and ROS production. Results: The 24 h S1 treatment increased ATP production and mitochondrial respiration by increasing the expression of fatty-acid-transporting regulators and inducing more negative mitochondrial membrane potential (Δψm). The 72 h S1 treatment decreased mitochondrial respiration rates and Δψm, but increased levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS), mCa2+, and intracellular Ca2+. Electron microscopy revealed increased mitochondrial fragmentation/fission in AC16 cells treated for 72 h. The effects of S1 on ATP production were completely blocked by neutralizing ACE2 but not CD147 antibodies, and were partly attenuated by Mitotempo (1 µM). Conclusion: S1 might impair mitochondrial function in human cardiomyocytes by altering Δψm, mCa2+ overload, ROS accumulation, and mitochondrial dynamics via ACE2.
Original languageEnglish
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2023


Dive into the research topics of 'Spike Protein Impairs Mitochondrial Function in Human Cardiomyocytes: Mechanisms Underlying Cardiac Injury in COVID-19'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this