Receive a weekly summary and discussion of the top papers of the week by leading researchers in the field.

In Royal Society open science

Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and serine protease TMPRSS2 have been implicated in cell entry for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 in the lung epithelium might have implications for the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection and severity of COVID-19. We use human genetic variants that proxy angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor drug effects and cardiovascular risk factors to investigate whether these exposures affect lung ACE2 and TMPRSS2 gene expression and circulating ACE2 levels. We observed no consistent evidence of an association of genetically predicted serum ACE levels with any of our outcomes. There was weak evidence for an association of genetically predicted serum ACE levels with ACE2 gene expression in the Lung eQTL Consortium (p = 0.014), but this finding did not replicate. There was evidence of a positive association of genetic liability to type 2 diabetes mellitus with lung ACE2 gene expression in the Gene-Tissue Expression (GTEx) study (p = 4 × 10-4) and with circulating plasma ACE2 levels in the INTERVAL study (p = 0.03), but not with lung ACE2 expression in the Lung eQTL Consortium study (p = 0.68). There were no associations of genetically proxied liability to the other cardiometabolic traits with any outcome. This study does not provide consistent evidence to support an effect of serum ACE levels (as a proxy for ACE inhibitors) or cardiometabolic risk factors on lung ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression or plasma ACE2 levels.

Gill Dipender, Arvanitis Marios, Carter Paul, Hernández Cordero Ana I, Jo Brian, Karhunen Ville, Larsson Susanna C, Li Xuan, Lockhart Sam M, Mason Amy, Pashos Evanthia, Saha Ashis, Tan Vanessa Y, Zuber Verena, Bossé Yohan, Fahle Sarah, Hao Ke, Jiang Tao, Joubert Philippe, Lunt Alan C, Ouwehand Willem Hendrik, Roberts David J, Timens Wim, van den Berge Maarten, Watkins Nicholas A, Battle Alexis, Butterworth Adam S, Danesh John, Di Angelantonio Emanuele, Engelhardt Barbara E, Peters James E, Sin Don D, Burgess Stephen


COVID-19, Mendelian randomization, angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, genetic epidemiology