A novel ACE2 isoform is expressed in human respiratory epithelia and is upregulated in response to interferons and RNA respiratory virus infection.

Nature Genetics
Cornelia BlumeV. Mennella


Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the main entry point in airway epithelial cells for SARS-CoV-2. ACE2 binding to the SARS-CoV-2 protein spike triggers viral fusion with the cell plasma membrane, resulting in viral RNA genome delivery into the host. Despite ACE2's critical role in SARS-CoV-2 infection, full understanding of ACE2 expression, including in response to viral infection, remains unclear. ACE2 was thought to encode five transcripts and one protein of 805 amino acids. In the present study, we identify a novel short isoform of ACE2 expressed in the airway epithelium, the main site of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Short ACE2 is substantially upregulated in response to interferon stimulation and rhinovirus infection, but not SARS-CoV-2 infection. This short isoform lacks SARS-CoV-2 spike high-affinity binding sites and, altogether, our data are consistent with a model where short ACE2 is unlikely to directly contribute to host susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection.


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