ACE2 Netlas: In silico Functional Characterization and Drug-Gene Interactions of ACE2 Gene Network to Understand Its Potential Involvement in COVID-19 Susceptibility

Front Genet. 2021 Aug 27;12:698033. doi: 10.3389/fgene.2021.698033. eCollection 2021.


Angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) receptor has been identified as the key adhesion molecule for the transmission of the SARS-CoV-2. However, there is no evidence that human genetic variation in ACE2 is singularly responsible for COVID-19 susceptibility. Therefore, we performed an integrative multi-level characterization of genes that interact with ACE2 (ACE2-gene network) for their statistically enriched biological properties in the context of COVID-19. The phenome-wide association of 51 genes including ACE2 with 4,756 traits categorized into 26 phenotype categories, showed enrichment of immunological, respiratory, environmental, skeletal, dermatological, and metabolic domains (p < 4e-4). Transcriptomic regulation of ACE2-gene network was enriched for tissue-specificity in kidney, small intestine, and colon (p < 4.7e-4). Leveraging the drug-gene interaction database we identified 47 drugs, including dexamethasone and spironolactone, among others. Considering genetic variants within ± 10 kb of ACE2-network genes we identified miRNAs whose binding sites may be altered as a consequence of genetic variation. The identified miRNAs revealed statistical over-representation of inflammation, aging, diabetes, and heart conditions. The genetic variant associations in RORA, SLC12A6, and SLC6A19 genes were observed in genome-wide association study (GWAS) of COVID-19 susceptibility. We also report the GWAS-identified variant in 3p21.31 locus, serves as trans-QTL for RORA and RORC genes. Overall, functional characterization of ACE2-gene network highlights several potential mechanisms in COVID-19 susceptibility. The data can also be accessed at

Keywords: ACE2; COVID-19; immune response; miRNA; network.