Sequence similarity between SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid and multiple sclerosis-associated proteins provides insight into viral neuropathogenesis following infection – PubMed


The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 continues to cause death and disease throughout the world, underscoring the necessity of understanding the virus and host immune response. From the start of the pandemic, a prominent pattern of central nervous system (CNS) pathologies, including demyelination, has emerged, suggesting an underlying mechanism of viral mimicry to CNS proteins. We hypothesized that immunodominant epitopes of SARS-CoV-2 share homology with proteins associated with multiple sclerosis (MS). Using PEPMatch, a newly developed bioinformatics package which predicts peptide similarity within specific amino acid mismatching parameters consistent with published MHC binding capacity, we discovered that nucleocapsid protein shares significant overlap with 22 MS-associated proteins, including myelin proteolipid protein (PLP). Further computational evaluation demonstrated that this overlap may have critical implications for T cell responses in MS patients and is likely unique to SARS-CoV-2 among the major human coronaviruses. Our findings substantiate the hypothesis of viral molecular mimicry in the pathogenesis of MS and warrant further experimental exploration.