A novel isoform of ACE2 is expressed in human nasal and bronchial respiratory epithelia and is upregulated in response to RNA respiratory virus infection

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
C. BlumeVito Mennella


Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the main entry point in the airways for SARS-CoV-2. ACE2 binding to SARS-CoV-2 protein Spike triggers viral fusion with the cell membrane, resulting in viral RNA genome delivery into the host. Despite ACE2's critical role in SARS-CoV-2 infection, an understanding of ACE2 expression, including in response to viral infection, remains unclear. Until now ACE2 was thought to encode five transcripts and one 805 amino acid protein. Here we identify a novel short isoform of ACE2. Short ACE2 is expressed in the airway epithelium, the main site of SARS-CoV-2 infection; it is substantially upregulated in response to interferon stimulation and RV infection, but not in response to SARS-CoV-2 infection, and it shows differential regulation in asthma patients. This short isoform lacks SARS-CoV-2 spike glycoprotein high-affinity binding sites and altogether our data are consistent with a model where short ACE2 may influence host susceptibility to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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