Researchers at Uppsala University have described the presence, throughout the human body, of the enzyme ACE2. This is thought to be the key protein used by the SARS-CoV-2 virus for host cell entry and development of the disease COVID-19. In contrast to previous studies, the study shows that no or very little ACE2 protein is present in the normal respiratory system. The results are presented in Molecular Systems Biology.
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The article presents a large-scale, systematic evaluation of angiotensin I converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression in more than 150 cell types, at both messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels, and reports that ACE2 is expressed only at very low levels, if at all, in respiratory epithelial cells.
"Considering the clinical manifestations of COVID-19, with acute respiratory distress syndrome and extensive damage to the lung parenchyma, the results highlight the need for further study of the biological mechanisms responsible for COVID-19 infection and disease progression," says Dr. Cecilia Lindskog, senior author of the paper and Head Director of the Human Protein Atlas tissue team at Uppsala University.