Using bioinformatic protein sequence similarity to investigate if SARS CoV-2 infection could cause an ocular autoimmune inflammatory reactions?

Karagöz, Işıl Kutluturk; Munk, Marion R.; Kaya, Mücahit; Rückert, René; Yıldırım, Mustafa; Karabaş, Levent (2021). Using bioinformatic protein sequence similarity to investigate if SARS CoV-2 infection could cause an ocular autoimmune inflammatory reactions? Experimental eye research, 203, p. 108433. Elsevier 10.1016/j.exer.2020.108433

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Although severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS CoV-2) infection have emerged globally, findings related to ocular involvement and reported cases are quite limited. Immune reactions against viral infections are closely related to viral and host proteins sequence similarity. Molecular Mimicry has been described for many different viruses; sequence similarities of viral and human tissue proteins may trigger autoimmune reactions after viral infections due to similarities between viral and human structures. With this study, we aimed to investigate the protein sequence similarity of SARS CoV-2 with retinal proteins and retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) surface proteins. Retinal proteins involved in autoimmune retinopathy and retinal pigment epithelium surface transport proteins were analyzed in order to infer their structural similarity to surface glycoprotein (S), nucleocapsid phosphoprotein (N), membrane glycoprotein (M), envelope protein (E), ORF1ab polyprotein (orf1ab) proteins of SARS CoV-2. Protein similarity comparisons, 3D protein structure prediction, T cell epitopes-MHC binding prediction, B cell epitopes-MHC binding prediction and the evaluation of the antigenicity of peptides assessments were performed. The protein sequence analysis was made using the Pairwise Sequence Alignment and the LALIGN program. 3D protein structure estimates were made using Swiss Model with default settings and analyzed with TM-align web server. T-cell epitope identification was performed using the Immune Epitope Database and Analysis (IEDB) resource Tepitool. B cell epitopes based on sequence characteristics of the antigen was performed using amino acid scales and HMMs with the BepiPred 2.0 web server. The predicted peptides/epitopes in terms of antigenicity were examined using the default settings with the VaxiJen v2.0 server. Analyses showed that, there is a meaningful similarities between 6 retinal pigment epithelium surface transport proteins (MRP-4, MRP-5, RFC1, SNAT7, TAUT and MATE) and the SARS CoV-2 E protein. Immunoreactive epitopic sites of these proteins which are similar to protein E epitope can create an immune stimulation on T cytotoxic and T helper cells and 6 of these 9 epitopic sites are also vaxiJen. These result imply that autoimmune cross-reaction is likely between the studied RPE proteins and SARS CoV-2 E protein. The structure of SARS CoV-2, its proteins and immunologic reactions against these proteins remain largely unknown. Understanding the structure of SARS CoV-2 proteins and demonstration of similarity with human proteins are crucial to predict an autoimmune response associated with immunity against host proteins and its clinical manifestations as well as possible adverse effects of vaccination.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Ophthalmology

UniBE Contributor:

Munk, Marion


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Marion Munk

Date Deposited:

14 Jan 2021 08:56

Last Modified:

07 Feb 2021 01:39

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

Autoimmune Retina Retinal pigment epithelium Sequence Similarity




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