SARS-CoV-2 Receptor ACE2 Is an Interferon-Stimulated Gene in Human Airway Epithelial Cells and Is Detected in Specific Cell Subsets across Tissues

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Cell. 2020 May 28;181(5):1016-1035.e19. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.035. Epub 2020 Apr 27.


There is pressing urgency to understand the pathogenesis of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus clade 2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes the disease COVID-19. SARS-CoV-2 spike (S) protein binds angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), and in concert with host proteases, principally transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2), promotes cellular entry. The cell subsets targeted by SARS-CoV-2 in host tissues and the factors that regulate ACE2 expression remain unknown. Here, we leverage human, non-human primate, and mouse single-cell RNA-sequencing (scRNA-seq) datasets across health and disease to uncover putative targets of SARS-CoV-2 among tissue-resident cell subsets. We identify ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expressing cells within lung type II pneumocytes, ileal absorptive enterocytes, and nasal goblet secretory cells. Strikingly, we discovered that ACE2 is a human interferon-stimulated gene (ISG) in vitro using airway epithelial cells and extend our findings to in vivo viral infections. Our data suggest that SARS-CoV-2 could exploit species-specific interferon-driven upregulation of ACE2, a tissue-protective mediator during lung injury, to enhance infection.

PMID:32413319 | PMC:PMC7252096 | DOI:10.1016/j.cell.2020.04.035