Neonatal hyperoxia enhances age-dependent expression of SARS-CoV-2 receptors in mice

BioRxiv : the Preprint Server for Biology
Min YeeMichael A O'Reilly


The severity of COVID-19 lung disease is higher in the elderly and people with pre-existing co-morbidities. People who were born preterm may be at greater risk for COVID-19 because their early exposure to oxygen at birth increases their risk of being hospitalized when infected with RSV and other respiratory viruses. Our prior studies in mice showed how high levels of oxygen (hyperoxia) between postnatal days 0-4 increases the severity of influenza A virus infections by reducing the number of alveolar epithelial type 2 (AT2) cells. Because AT2 cells express the SARS-CoV-2 receptors angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE2) and transmembrane protease/serine subfamily member 2 (TMPRSS2), we expected their expression would decline as AT2 cells were depleted by hyperoxia. Instead, we made the surprising discovery that expression of Ace2 and Tmprss2 mRNA increases as mice age and is accelerated by exposing mice to neonatal hyperoxia. ACE2 is primarily expressed at birth by airway Club cells and becomes detectable in AT2 cells by one year of life. Neonatal hyperoxia increases ACE2 expression in Club cells and makes it detectable in 2-month-old AT2 cells. This early and increased expression of SARS-CoV-2 receptors was not seen in adult mice...Continue Reading

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