Determinants of SARS-CoV-2 receptor gene expression in upper and lower airways

Hananeh Aliee, Florian Massip, Cancan Qi, Maria Stella de Biase, Johannes L van Nijnatten, Elin T G Kersten, Nazanin Z Kermani, Basil Khuder, Judith M Vonk, Roel C H Vermeulen, Margaret Neighbors, Gaik W Tew, Michele Grimbaldeston, Nick H T Ten Hacken, Sile Hu, Yike Guo, Xiaoyu Zhang, Kai Sun, Pieter S Hiemstra, Bruce A PonderMika J Makela, Kristiina Malmstrom, Robert C Rintoul, Paul A Reyfman, Fabian J Theis, Corry-A Brandsma, Ian Adcock, Wim Timens, Cheng J Xu, Maarten van den Berge, Roland F Schwarz, Gerard H Koppelman*, Martijn C Nawijn, Alen Faiz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic

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The recent outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), which causes coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), has led to a worldwide pandemic. One week after initial symptoms develop, a subset of patients progresses to severe disease, with high mortality and limited treatment options. To design novel interventions aimed at preventing spread of the virus and reducing progression to severe disease, detailed knowledge of the cell types and regulating factors driving cellular entry is urgently needed. Here we assess the expression patterns in genes required for COVID-19 entry into cells and replication, and their regulation by genetic, epigenetic and environmental factors, throughout the respiratory tract using samples collected from the upper (nasal) and lower airways (bronchi). Matched samples from the upper and lower airways show a clear increased expression of these genes in the nose compared to the bronchi and parenchyma. Cellular deconvolution indicates a clear association of these genes with the proportion of secretory epithelial cells. Smoking status was found to increase the majority of COVID-19 related genes including ACE2 and TMPRSS2 but only in the lower airways, which was associated with a significant increase in the predicted proportion of goblet cells in bronchial samples of current smokers. Both acute and second hand smoke were found to increase ACE2 expression in the bronchus. Inhaled corticosteroids decrease ACE2 expression in the lower airways. No significant effect of genetics on ACE2 expression was observed, but a strong association of DNA- methylation with ACE2 and TMPRSS2- mRNA expression was identified in the bronchus.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - 2-Sept-2020

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NamemedRxiv : the preprint server for health sciences

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