Distribution of ACE2, CD147, CD26, and other SARS-CoV-2 associated molecules in tissues and immune cells in health and in asthma, COPD, obesity, hypertension, and COVID-19 risk factors

Urszula Radzikowska, Mei Ding, Ge Tan, Damir Zhakparov, Yaqi Peng, Paulina Wawrzyniak, Ming Wang, Shuo Li, Hideaki Morita, Can Altunbulakli, Matthias Reiger, Avidan U. Neumann, Nonhlanhla Lunjani, Claudia Traidl-Hoffmann, Kari C. Nadeau, Liam O’Mahony, Cezmi Akdis, Milena Sokolowska

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

364 Scopus citations


Background: Morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 caused by novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 is accelerating worldwide, and novel clinical presentations of COVID-19 are often reported. The range of human cells and tissues targeted by SARS-CoV-2, its potential receptors and associated regulating factors are still largely unknown. The aim of our study was to analyze the expression of known and potential SARS-CoV-2 receptors and related molecules in the extensive collection of primary human cells and tissues from healthy subjects of different age and from patients with risk factors and known comorbidities of COVID-19. Methods: We performed RNA sequencing and explored available RNA-Seq databases to study gene expression and co-expression of ACE2, CD147 (BSG), and CD26 (DPP4) and their direct and indirect molecular partners in primary human bronchial epithelial cells, bronchial and skin biopsies, bronchoalveolar lavage fluid, whole blood, peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs), monocytes, neutrophils, DCs, NK cells, ILC1, ILC2, ILC3, CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, B cells, and plasmablasts. We analyzed the material from healthy children and adults, and from adults in relation to their disease or COVID-19 risk factor status. Results: ACE2 and TMPRSS2 were coexpressed at the epithelial sites of the lung and skin, whereas CD147 (BSG), cyclophilins (PPIA and PPIB), CD26 (DPP4), and related molecules were expressed in both epithelium and in immune cells. We also observed a distinct age-related expression profile of these genes in the PBMCs and T cells from healthy children and adults. Asthma, COPD, hypertension, smoking, obesity, and male gender status generally led to the higher expression of ACE2- and CD147-related genes in the bronchial biopsy, BAL, or blood. Additionally, CD147-related genes correlated positively with age and BMI. Interestingly, we also observed higher expression of CD147-related genes in the lesional skin of patients with atopic dermatitis. Conclusions: Our data suggest different receptor repertoire potentially involved in the SARS-CoV-2 infection at the epithelial barriers and in the immune cells. Altered expression of these receptors related to age, gender, obesity and smoking, as well as with the disease status, might contribute to COVID-19 morbidity and severity patterns.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2829-2845
Number of pages17
JournalAllergy: European Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology
Issue number11
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 EAACI and John Wiley and Sons A/S. Published by John Wiley and Sons Ltd.


  • COPD
  • COVID-19
  • COVID-19 children
  • SARS receptor
  • asthma
  • hypertension
  • obesity


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