ACE2 is a major receptor for cellular entry of SARS-CoV-2. Despite advances in targeting ACE2 to inhibit SARS-CoV-2 binding, strategies to flexibly and sufficiently reduce ACE2 levels for the prevention of SARS-CoV-2 infection have not been explored. Here, we reveal vitamin C (VitC) administration as a potent strategy to prevent SARS-CoV-2 infection. VitC reduces ACE2 protein levels in a dose-dependent manner, while even a partial reduction in ACE2 levels can greatly inhibit SARS-CoV-2 infection. Further studies reveal that USP50 is a crucial regulator of ACE2 levels. VitC blocks the USP50-ACE2 interaction, thus promoting K48-linked polyubiquitination of ACE2 at Lys788 and subsequent degradation of ACE2 without affecting its transcriptional expression. Importantly, VitC administration reduces host ACE2 levels and greatly blocks SARS-CoV-2 infection in mice. This study reveals that ACE2 protein levels are down-regulated by an essential nutrient, VitC, thereby enhancing protection against infection of SARS-CoV-2 and its variants.
Keywords: ACE2; SARS-CoV-2; USP50; prevention; vitamin C.
© 2023 The Authors.