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Multiple Expression Assessments of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 SARS-CoV-2 Entry Molecules in the Urinary Tract and Their Associations with Clinical Manifestations of COVID-19

Authors Ren X, Wang S, Chen X, Wei X, Li G, Ren S, Zhang T, Zhang X, Lu Z, You Z, Wang Z, Song N, Qin C

Received 3 July 2020

Accepted for publication 19 October 2020

Published 4 November 2020 Volume 2020:13 Pages 3977—3990


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 4

Editor who approved publication: Professor Suresh Antony

Xiaohan Ren,1,* Shangqian Wang,1,* Xinglin Chen,1,* Xiyi Wei,1,* Guangyao Li,1,* Shancheng Ren,2 Tongtong Zhang,1 Xu Zhang,1 Zhongwen Lu,1 Zebing You,1 Zengjun Wang,1 Ninghong Song,1 Chao Qin1

1The State Key Laboratory of Reproductive; Department of Urology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210029, People’s Republic of China; 2Department of Urology, Shanghai Changhai Hospital, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, People’s Republic of China

*These authors contributed equally to this work

Correspondence: Chao Qin; Ninghong Song
The State Key Laboratory of Reproductive; Department of Urology, The First Affiliated Hospital of Nanjing Medical University, Nanjing 210029, People’s Republic of China
Tel +86 13776678978
; +86 15651728807
Email [email protected]; [email protected]

Background: Since December 2019, the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), first spread quickly in Wuhan, China, then globally. Based on previously published evidence, ACE2 and TMPRSS2 are both pivotal entry molecules that enable cellular infection by SARS-CoV-2. Also, increased expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or a “cytokine storm,” is associated with multiple organ dysfunction syndrome often observed in critically ill patients.
Methods: We investigated the expression pattern of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in major organs in the human body, especially in specific disease conditions. Multiple sequence alignment of ACE2 in different species was used to explain animal susceptibility. Moreover, the cell-specific expression patterns of ACE2 and cytokine receptors in the urinary tract were assessed using single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq). Additional biological relevance was determined through Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) using an ACE2-specific signature.
Results: Our results revealed that ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were highly expressed in genitourinary organs. ACE2 was highly and significantly expressed in the kidney among individuals with chronic kidney diseases or diabetic nephropathy. In single cells, ACE2 was primarily enriched in gametocytes in the testis and renal proximal tubules. The receptors for pro-inflammatory cytokines, especially IL6ST, were notably concentrated in endothelial cells, macrophages, spermatogonial stem cells in the testis, and renal endothelial cells, which suggested the occurrence of alternative damaging autoimmune mechanisms.
Conclusion: This study provided new insights into the pathogenic mechanisms of SARS-CoV-2 that underlie the clinical manifestations observed in the human testis and kidney. These observations might substantially facilitate the development of effective treatments for this rapidly spreading disease.

Keywords: genitourinary organs, pro-inflammatory cytokine receptors, kidney, testis, SARS-CoV-2

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