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.
Keywords: ACE2; COVID-19; ISG; SARS-CoV-2; human; influenza; interferon; mouse; non-human primate; scRNA-seq.
Copyright © 2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Conflict of interest statement
Declaration of Interests A.R. is an SAB member of ThermoFisher Scientific, Neogene Therapeutics, Asimov, and Syros Pharmaceuticals; a co-founder of and equity holder in Celsius Therapeutics; and an equity holder in Immunitas Therapeutics. A.K.S. reports compensation for consulting and/or SAB membership from Merck, Honeycomb Biotechnologies, Cellarity, Cogen Therapeutics, Orche Bio, and Dahlia Biosciences. L.S.K. is on the SAB for HiFiBio; she reports research funding from Kymab Limited, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Magenta Therapeutics, BlueBird Bio, and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and consulting fees from Equillium, FortySeven, Inc, Novartis, Inc, EMD Serono, Gilead Sciences, and Takeda Pharmaceuticals. A.S. is an employee of Johnson and Johnson. N.K. is an inventor on a patent using thyroid hormone mimetics in acute lung injury that is now being considered for intervention in COVID-19 patients. J.L. is a scientific consultant for 10X Genomics, Inc. O.R.R, is a co-inventor on patent applications filed by the Broad Institute to inventions relating to single-cell genomics applications, such as in PCT/US2018/060860 and US Provisional Application No. 62/745,259. S.T. in the last three years was a consultant at Genentech, Biogen, and Roche and is a member of the SAB of Foresite Labs. M.H.W. is now an employee of Pfizer. F.J.T. reports receiving consulting fees from Roche Diagnostics GmbH and ownership interest in Cellarity, Inc. P.H. is a co-inventor on a patent using artificial intelligence and high-resolution microscopy for COVID-19 infection testing based on serology.
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