UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The contrasting role of nasopharyngeal angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) transcription in SARS-CoV-2 infection : A cross-sectional study of people tested for COVID-19 in British Columbia, Canada Nikiforuk, Aidan; Kuchinski, Kevin; Twa, David D. W.; Lukac, Christine; Sbihi, Hind; Basham, C. Andrew; Steidl, Christian; Prystajecky, Natalie; Jassem, Agatha; Krajden, Mel; Patrick, David; Sekirov, Inna

Abstract

Background: Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) protein serves as the host receptor for SARS-CoV-2, with a critical role in viral infection. We aim to understand population level variation of nasopharyngeal ACE2 transcription in people tested for COVID-19 and the relationship between ACE2 transcription and SARSCoV-2 viral load, while adjusting for expression of: (i) the complementary protease, Transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2), (ii) soluble ACE2, (iii) age, and (iv) biological sex. The ACE2 gene was targeted to measure expression of transmembrane and soluble transcripts. Methods: A cross-sectional study of n = 424 “participants” aged 1 104 years referred for COVID-19 testing was performed in British Columbia, Canada. Patients who tested positive for COVID-19 were matched by age and biological sex to patients who tested negative. Viral load and host gene expression were assessed by quantitative reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction. Bivariate analysis and multiple linear regression were performed to understand the role of nasopharyngeal ACE2 expression in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Findings: Analysis showed no association between age and nasopharyngeal ACE2 transcription in those who tested negative for COVID-19 (P = 0092). Mean relative transcription of transmembrane (P = 000012) and soluble (P

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