Type 2 and interferon inflammation regulate SARS-CoV-2 entry factor expression in the airway epithelium

Satria P. Sajuthi, Peter DeFord, Yingchun Li, Nathan D. Jackson, Michael T. Montgomery, Jamie L. Everman, Cydney L. Rios, Elmar Pruesse, James D. Nolin, Elizabeth G. Plender, Michael E. Wechsler, Angel C.Y. Mak, Celeste Eng, Sandra Salazar, Vivian Medina, Eric M. Wohlford, Scott Huntsman, Deborah A. Nickerson, Soren Germer, Michael C. ZodyGonçalo Abecasis, Hyun Min Kang, Kenneth M. Rice, Rajesh Kumar, Sam Oh, Jose Rodriguez-Santana, Esteban G. Burchard, Max A. Seibold*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

107 Scopus citations


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by SARS-CoV-2, an emerging virus that utilizes host proteins ACE2 and TMPRSS2 as entry factors. Understanding the factors affecting the pattern and levels of expression of these genes is important for deeper understanding of SARS-CoV-2 tropism and pathogenesis. Here we explore the role of genetics and co-expression networks in regulating these genes in the airway, through the analysis of nasal airway transcriptome data from 695 children. We identify expression quantitative trait loci for both ACE2 and TMPRSS2, that vary in frequency across world populations. We find TMPRSS2 is part of a mucus secretory network, highly upregulated by type 2 (T2) inflammation through the action of interleukin-13, and that the interferon response to respiratory viruses highly upregulates ACE2 expression. IL-13 and virus infection mediated effects on ACE2 expression were also observed at the protein level in the airway epithelium. Finally, we define airway responses to common coronavirus infections in children, finding that these infections generate host responses similar to other viral species, including upregulation of IL6 and ACE2. Our results reveal possible mechanisms influencing SARS-CoV-2 infectivity and COVID-19 clinical outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number5139
JournalNature communications
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Physics and Astronomy
  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology


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