Expression of SARS-CoV-2 Entry Molecules ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in the Gut of Patients With IBD

Inflamm Bowel Dis. 2020 May 12;26(6):797-808. doi: 10.1093/ibd/izaa085.


Background: Patients with inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) have intestinal inflammation and are treated with immune-modulating medications. In the face of the coronavirus disease-19 pandemic, we do not know whether patients with IBD will be more susceptible to infection or disease. We hypothesized that the viral entry molecules angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) are expressed in the intestine. We further hypothesized that their expression could be affected by inflammation or medication usage.

Methods: We examined the expression of Ace2 and Tmprss2 by quantitative polymerase chain reacion in animal models of IBD. Publicly available data from organoids and mucosal biopsies from patients with IBD were examined for expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2. We conducted RNA sequencing for CD11b-enriched cells and peripheral and lamina propria T-cells from well-annotated patient samples.

Results: ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were abundantly expressed in the ileum and colon and had high expression in intestinal epithelial cells. In animal models, inflammation led to downregulation of epithelial Ace2. Expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 was not increased in samples from patients with compared with those of control patients. In CD11b-enriched cells but not T-cells, the level of expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in the mucosa was comparable to other functional mucosal genes and was not affected by inflammation. Anti-tumor necrosis factor drugs, vedolizumab, ustekinumab, and steroids were linked to significantly lower expression of ACE2 in CD11b-enriched cells.

Conclusions: The viral entry molecules ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are expressed in the ileum and colon. Patients with IBD do not have higher expression during inflammation; medical therapy is associated with lower levels of ACE2. These data provide reassurance for patients with IBD.

Keywords: Crohn disease; coronavirus; ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Animals
  • Betacoronavirus / metabolism
  • Biopsy
  • COVID-19
  • Colon / drug effects
  • Colon / metabolism
  • Computational Biology
  • Coronavirus Infections / physiopathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation* / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Ileum / drug effects
  • Ileum / metabolism
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / pharmacology*
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use
  • Inflammation / physiopathology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / drug therapy
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Middle Aged
  • Pandemics
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / genetics*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / physiopathology
  • Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Serine Endopeptidases / genetics*
  • Transcriptome
  • Young Adult


  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • ACE2 protein, human
  • Ace2 protein, mouse
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2
  • Serine Endopeptidases
  • TMPRSS2 protein, human