1. Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility & California IVF Fertility Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of California Davis, Sacramento, CA, 95833, USA.
2. California Northstate University Medical College, Elk Grove, CA, 95757, USA.
3. Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, The C.S. Mott Center for Human Growth and Development, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, 48201, USA.
4. Department of Physiology, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, 48201, USA.
5. Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry, Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit, MI, 48201, USA.
Multi-system involvement and rapid clinical deterioration are hallmarks of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) related mortality. The unique clinical phenomena in severe COVID-19 can be perplexing, and they include disproportionately severe hypoxemia relative to lung alveolar-parenchymal pathology and rapid clinical deterioration, with poor response to O2 supplementation, despite preserved lung mechanics. Factors such as microvascular injury, thromboembolism, pulmonary hypertension, and alteration in hemoglobin structure and function could play important roles. Overwhelming immune response associated with “cytokine storms” could activate reactive oxygen species (ROS), which may result in consumption of nitric oxide (NO), a critical vasodilation regulator. In other inflammatory infections, activated neutrophils are known to release myeloperoxidase (MPO) in a natural immune response, which contributes to production of hypochlorous acid (HOCl). However, during overwhelming inflammation, HOCl competes with O2 at heme binding sites, decreasing O2 saturation. Moreover, HOCl contributes to several oxidative reactions, including hemoglobin-heme iron oxidation, heme destruction, and subsequent release of free iron, which mediates toxic tissue injury through additional generation of ROS and NO consumption. Connecting these reactions in a multi-hit model can explain generalized tissue damage, vasoconstriction, severe hypoxia, and precipitous clinical deterioration in critically ill COVID-19 patients. Understanding these mechanisms is critical to develop therapeutic strategies to combat COVID-19.
Keywords: Coronavirus. COVID-19, reactive oxygen species, free iron, myeloperoxidase, HOCl