SARS-CoV-2 Neuronal Invasion and Complications: Potential Mechanisms and Therapeutic Approaches

Olivia Swain, Sofia K. Romano, Ritika Miryala, Jocelyn Tsai, Vinnie Parikh, George K.E. Umanah

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Clinical reports suggest that the coronavirus disease-19 (COVID-19) pandemic caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS)-coronavirus-2 (CoV-2) has not only taken millions of lives, but has also created a major crisis of neurologic complications that persist even after recovery from the disease. Autopsies of patients confirm the presence of the coronaviruses in the CNS, especially in the brain. The invasion and transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in the CNS is not clearly defined, but, because the endocytic pathway has become an important target for the development of therapeutic strategies for COVID-19, it is necessary to understand endocytic processes in the CNS. In addition, mitochondria and mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling pathways play a critical role in the antiviral immune response, and may also be critical for endocytic activity. Furthermore, dysfunctions of mitochondria and mTOR signaling pathways have been associated with some high-risk conditions such as diabetes and immunodeficiency for developing severe complications observed in COVID-19 patients. However, the role of these pathways in SARS-CoV-2 infection and spread are largely unknown. In this review, we discuss the potential mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 entry into the CNS and how mitochondria and mTOR pathways might regulate endocytic vesicle–mitochondria interactions and dynamics during SARS-CoV-2 infection. The mechanisms that plausibly account for severe neurologic complications with COVID-19 and potential treatments with Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs targeting mitochondria and the mTOR pathways are also addressed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5338-5349
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Neuroscience
Issue number25
StatePublished - Jun 25 2021


  • ACE2
  • Autophagy
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus
  • Hyperinflammation
  • Lysosome
  • MTOR
  • Mitochondria
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)


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