Endocrine disrupting chemicals and COVID-19 relationships: a computational systems biology approach

Abstract

Background: Patients at high risk of severe forms of COVID-19 frequently suffer from chronic diseases, but other risk factors may also play a role. Environmental stressors, such as endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs), can contribute to certain chronic diseases and might aggravate the course of COVID-19.
Objectives: To explore putative links between EDCs and COVID-19 severity, an integrative systems biology approach was constructed and applied.
Methods: As a first step, relevant data sets were compiled from major data sources. Biological associations of major EDCs to proteins were extracted from the CompTox database. Associations between proteins and diseases known as important COVID-19 comorbidities were obtained from the GeneCards and DisGeNET databases. Based on these data, we developed a tripartite network (EDCs-proteins-diseases) and used it to identify proteins overlapping between the EDCs and the diseases. Signaling pathways for common proteins were then investigated by over-representation analysis.
Results: We found several statistically significant pathways that may be dysregulated by EDCs and that may also be involved in COVID-19 severity. The Th17 and the AGE/RAGE signaling pathways were particularly promising.
Conclusions: Pathways were identified as possible targets of EDCs and as contributors to COVID-19 severity, thereby highlighting possible links between exposure to environmental chemicals and disease development. This study also documents the application of computational systems biology methods as a relevant approach to increase the understanding of molecular mechanisms linking EDCs and human diseases, thereby contributing to toxicology prediction.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

Funding Statement

Horizon 2020 Framework Programme grant agreement no. 825712.
National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, NIH P42ES027706

Author Declarations

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Yes

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not applicable

All necessary patient/participant consent has been obtained and the appropriate institutional forms have been archived.

Yes

I understand that all clinical trials and any other prospective interventional studies must be registered with an ICMJE-approved registry, such as ClinicalTrials.gov. I confirm that any such study reported in the manuscript has been registered and the trial registration ID is provided (note: if posting a prospective study registered retrospectively, please provide a statement in the trial ID field explaining why the study was not registered in advance).

Yes

I have followed all appropriate research reporting guidelines and uploaded the relevant EQUATOR Network research reporting checklist(s) and other pertinent material as supplementary files, if applicable.

Yes

Data Availability

The authors confirm that the data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article [and/or] its supplementary materials.

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