Airways Expression of SARS-CoV-2 Receptor, ACE2, and TMPRSS2 Is Lower in Children Than Adults and Increases with Smoking and COPD
Al Heialy, Saba
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Abstract: It has been reported that angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) are the main cell entry proteins for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) and play a critical role in causing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). To investigate the expression level of these SARS-CoV-2 host cell entry genes in the lung airway, we used public gene expression datasets. We have found a differential expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in nasal and bronchial airways relative to age and diseases status. Children were found to have significantly lower expression of COVID-19 receptors in the upper and lower airways (nasal and bronchial). Moreover, the lung airway expression of both ACE2 and TMPRSS2 was found to be significantly upregulated in smokers compared with non-smokers, and in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) compared with healthy subjects. No difference was observed in the blood expression levels of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 between children and adults, or in COPD or diabetic patients. However, a significant increase in blood expression levels of these genes was observed in patients with essential hypertension, whereas only ACE2 was upregulated in the blood of asthmatics. These results suggest that the observed difference in COVID-19 severity between children and adults could, in part, be attributed to the difference in ACE2 and TMPRSS2 airways tissue expression levels.