Epigenetic Lens to Visualize the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) Infection in COVID-19 Pandemic

Nitin Saksena, Srinivasa Reddy Bonam, Monica Miranda-Saksena

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


In <20 years, we have witnessed three different epidemics with coronaviruses, SARS-CoV, MERS-CoV, and SARS-CoV-2 in human populations, causing widespread mortality. SARS-CoV-2, through its rapid global spread, has led to the pandemic that we call COVID-19. As of February 1, 2021, the global infections linked to SARS-CoV-2 stand at 103,503,340, with 2,236,960 deaths, and 75,108,099 recoveries. This review attempts to highlight host-pathogen interaction with particular emphasis on the role of epigenetic machinery in regulating the disease. Although researchers, since the start of the pandemic, have been intensely engaged in diverse areas to understand the mechanisms involved in SARS-CoV-2 infection to find answers that can bring about innovative ways to swiftly treat and prevent disease progression, this review provides an overview on how the host epigenetics is modulated and subverted by SARS-CoV-2 to enter the host cells and drive immunopathogenesis. Epigenetics is the study that combines genetic and non-genetic factors controlling phenotypic variation, which are primarily a consequence of external and environmental stimuli. These stimuli alter the activity of a gene without impinging on the DNA code. In viral-host interactions, DNA/RNA methylation, non-coding RNAs, chromatin remodeling, and histone modifications are known to regulate and modulate host gene expression patterns. Viruses such as Coronaviruses (an RNA virus) show intrinsic association with these processes. They have evolved the ability to tamper with host epigenetic machinery to interfere with immune sensing pathways to evade host immune response, thereby enhancing its replication and pathogenesis post-entry. These epigenetic alterations allow the virus to weaken the host's immune response to successfully spread infection. How this occurs, and what epigenetic mechanisms are altered is poorly understood both for coronaviruses and other respiratory RNA viruses. The review highlights several cutting-edge aspects of epigenetic work primarily pertinent to SARS-CoV-2, which has been published between 2019 and 2020 to showcase the current knowledge both in terms of success and failures and take lessons that will assist us in understanding the disease to develop better treatments suited to kill SARS-CoV-2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number581726
JournalFrontiers in Genetics
StatePublished - Mar 22 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • SARSCoV2 pathogenesis
  • chromatin
  • epigenetic modulation
  • epigenetics
  • methylation
  • miRNA

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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