Kawasaki disease (KD) and multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C) share similar clinical manifestations, including cardiovascular complications, suggesting similar underlying immunopathogenic processes. Aberrant neutrophil activation may play a crucial role in the shared pathologies of KD and MIS-C; however, the associated pathogenic mechanisms and molecular drivers remain unknown.
We performed a single-cell meta-analysis of neutrophil activation with 103 pediatric single-cell transcriptomic peripheral blood mononuclear cell data across 9 cohorts, including healthy controls, KD, MIS-C, compared with dengue virus infection, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, and pediatric celiac disease. We used a series of computational analyses to investigate the shared neutrophil transcriptional programs of KD and MIS-C that are linked to systemic damage and cardiac pathologies, and suggested Food and Drug Administration–approved drugs to consider as KD and MIS-C treatment.
We meta-analyzed 521 950 high-quality cells. We found that blood signatures associated with risks of cardiovascular events are enriched in neutrophils of KD and MIS-C. We revealed the expansion of CD177+ neutrophils harboring hyperactivated effector functions in both KD and MIS-C, but not in healthy controls or in other viral-, inflammatory-, or immune-related pediatric diseases. KD and MIS-C CD177+ neutrophils had highly similar transcriptomes, marked by conserved signatures and pathways related to molecular damage. We found the induction of a shared neutrophil expression program, potentially regulated by SPI1 (Spi-1 proto-oncogene), which confers enhanced effector functions, especially neutrophil degranulation. CD177 and shared neutrophil expression program expressions were associated with acute stages and attenuated during KD intravenous immunoglobulin treatment and MIS-C recovery. Network analysis identified hub genes that correlated with the high activation of CD177+ neutrophils. Disease-gene association analysis revealed that the KD and MIS-C CD177+ neutrophils’ shared expression program was associated with the development of coronary and myocardial disorders. Last, we identified and validated TSPO (translocator protein) and S100A12 (S100 calcium-binding protein A12) as main molecular targets, for which the Food and Drug Administration–approved drugs methotrexate, zaleplon, metronidazole, lorazepam, clonazepam, temazepam, and zolpidem, among others, are primary candidates for drug repurposing.
Our findings indicate that CD177+ neutrophils may exert systemic pathological damage contributing to the shared morbidities in KD and MIS-C. We uncovered potential regulatory drivers of CD177+ neutrophil hyperactivation and pathogenicity that may be targeted as a single therapeutic strategy for either KD or MIS-C.