The new coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2), which has been responsible for the recent coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, uses the cell receptor angiotensin converting enzyme-2 (ACE2) for entry and the serine protease TMPRSS2 for spike (S) protein priming. Meanwhile, the presence of B<sup>0</sup>AT1 (SLC6A19) may prevent TMPRSS2 from accessing the cutting position on ACE2. Identifying the expression of these cell receptor-related genes of SARS-CoV-2 is critical for understanding the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2 in various tissues, especially in the kidney.
The single-cell transcription datasets of the human cell landscape (HCL) and other relevant single-cell transcription databases were used to analyze the expression of ACE2, TMPRSS2, and SLC6A19 in various organs and tissues, but mainly in the kidney.
ACE2 was significantly expressed in the S1, S2, and S3 segments of proximal tubule (PT) cells. TMPRSS2 was widely expressed in several renal tubule populations extending from the PT cells to the collection system cell type, of which intercalated cells and the distal convoluted tubule cells showed more significant expression than PT cells. Unexpectedly, although expressed on various renal tubule populations, SLC6A19 was mainly enriched in PT cells, in line with ACE2 expression. Although alveolar-type (AT) 2 cells of the lung and intestinal epithelial cells expressed ACE2 as well as PT cells, AT 2 cells significantly expressed TMPRSS2 but not SLC6A19, while all 3 genes were significantly expressed in intestinal epithelial cells.
ACE2 was widely expressed in specific cell subgroups of various human tissues, especially in intestinal epithelial cells, kidney PT cells, and also AT 2 cells of the lung. These 3 types of cells demonstrated significant differences in the distribution of the cell receptor-related genes of SARS-CoV-2, which may indicate the diversity of cell surface structures and differences in the affinity between SARS-CoV-2 and cells.