Role Of Retroelements In The Development Of COVID-19 Neurological Consequences

Mustafin, Rustam N.; Kazantseva, Anastasiya V.; Kovas, Yulia and Khusnutdinova, Elza K.. 2022. Role Of Retroelements In The Development Of COVID-19 Neurological Consequences. Russian Open Medical Journal, 11(3), e0313. ISSN 2304-3415 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Retroelements play a key role in brain functioning in humans and other animals, since they represent dynamic regulatory elements controlling the expression of specific neuron types. The activity of retroelements in the brain is impaired under the influence of SARS-CoV-2, penetrating the blood-brain barrier. We propose a new concept, according to which the neurological complications of COVID-19 and their long-term effects are caused by modified expression of retroelements in neurons due to viral effect. This effect is implemented in several ways: a direct effect of the virus on the promoter regions of retroelement-encoding genes, virus interaction with miRNAs causing silencing of transposons, and an effect of the viral RNA on the products of retroelement transcription. Aging-related physiological activation of retroelements in the elderly is responsible for more severe course of COVID-19. The associations of multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Guillain-Barré syndrome, acute disseminated encephalomyelitis with coronavirus lesions also indicate the role of retroelements in such complications, because retroelements are involved in the mechanisms of the development of these diseases. According to meta-analyses, COVID-19-caused neurological complications ranged 36.4-73%. The neuropsychiatric consequences of COVID-19 are observed in patients over a long period after recovery, and their prevalence may exceed those during the acute phase of the disease. Even 12 months after recovery, unmotivated fatigue, headache, mental disorders, and neurocognitive impairment were observed in 82%, 60%, 26.2-45%, and 16.2-46.8% of patients, correspondingly. These manifestations are explained by the role of retroelements in the integration of SARS-CoV-2 into the human genome using their reverse transcriptase and endonuclease, which results in a long-term viral persistence. The research on the role of specific retroelements in these changes can become the basis for developing targeted therapy for neurological consequences of COVID-19 using miRNAs, since epigenetic changes in the functioning of the genome in neurons, affected by transposons, are reversible.

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Our study was supported by the mega-grant from the Republic of Bashkortostan Ministry of Science and Higher Education (Agreement No. 1 of December 28, 2021).


COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, brain, retroelements, transposons, microRNAs, neurological pathology.

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17 May 2022Accepted
1 September 2022Published

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Date Deposited:

14 Dec 2022 16:07

Last Modified:

14 Dec 2022 16:07

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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