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N-acylethanolamine acid amidase inhibition reduces SARS-CoV-2 infection in Human Precision cut-lung slices and downregulates NF-kappaB signalling.


Like other positive-sense RNA viruses, SARS-CoV-2 manipulates host lipid metabolism to facilitate its replication by enhancing lipogenesis and lipid droplet formation. In doing so, SARS-CoV-2 infection perturbs bioactive lipid levels associated with the inflammatory response. One of these, Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) is suppressed during SARS-CoV-2 infection since it activates the Peroxisome Proliferator-Activated Receptor-alpha (PPAR-alpha), a transcription factor that suppresses the nuclear factor- B (NF-kappaB), which is mandatory to sustain SARS-CoV-2 replication. PEA levels are regulated by N-acylethanolamine acid amidase (NAAA), a lysosomal enzyme responsible for catalysing the breakdown of PEA. We hypothesized that NAAA inhibition might interfere with SARS-CoV-2 replication since it will lead PEA to accumulate, activating PPAR-alpha and, consequently, suppressing NF-kappaB. Our results reveal that genetic or chemical ablation of NAAA significantly suppresses SARS-CoV-2 replication by three log10 in human-derived precision-cut lung slices. Therefore, we investigated whether inhibiting NAAA could influence NF-kappaB activation through the activation of PPAR-alpha. We observed PPAR-alpha increased expression in NAAA-/- cells, while PPAR-alpha expression remained low in infected parental cells. As expected, the elevated PPAR-alpha expression correlated with a parallel reduction in NF-kappaB activation when NAAA is ablated. These findings underscore NAAA as an essential host factor for SARS-CoV-2 replication and propose a potential mechanism of action rooted in the attenuation of NF-kappaB activation during viral replication.