Available only for arXiv papers.
Leukocyte infiltration of the CNS can contribute to neuroinflammation and cognitive impairment. Brain endothelial cells regulate adhesion, activation, and diapedesis of T cells across the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in inflammatory diseases. The integral membrane protein Caveolin-1 (Cav-1) critically regulates BBB permeability, but its influence on T cell CNS infiltration in respiratory viral infections is unknown. In this study, we sought to determine the role of Cav-1 at the BBB in neuroinflammation in a COVID-19 mouse model. We used mice genetically deficient in Cav-1 to test the role of this protein in T cell infiltration and cognitive impairment. We found that SARS-CoV-2 infection upregulated brain endothelial Cav-1. Moreover, SARS-CoV-2 infection increased brain endothelial cell vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1) and CD3+ T cell infiltration of the hippocampus, a region important for short term learning and memory. Concordantly, we observed learning and memory deficits. Importantly, genetic deficiency in Cav-1 attenuated brain endothelial VCAM-1 expression and T cell infiltration in the hippocampus of mice with SARS-CoV-2 infection. Moreover, Cav-1 KO mice were protected from the learning and memory deficits caused by SARS-CoV-2 infection. These results indicate the importance of BBB permeability in COVID-19 neuroinflammation and suggest potential therapeutic value of targeting Cav-1 to improve disease outcomes.