Smoking May Promote SARS-CoV-2 Infection by Increasing ACE2 Expression

May 27, 2020 | Biotechnology

Reading time: 2-3 minutes

Fresh from GEN – Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News, here is a newly released Biotech article for you:

Whether smokers have a harder time dealing with a COVID-19 infection remains, like many questions surrounding this disease, a question without a firm answer. Previous data has suggested that cigarette smokers are more likely than non-smokers to have health complications. Now, a group of researchers present findings that may explain why.

Scientists from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) found that smoking increases the gene expression of ACE2—the protein that binds SARS-CoV-2. The study suggests that prolonged smoking could cause an increase of the ACE2 protein in the lungs, possibly resulting in a higher rate of morbidity in patients.

“Our results provide a clue as to why smokers who develop COVID-19 tend to have poor clinical outcomes,” said senior author Jason Sheltzer, PhD, an independent fellow at CSHL. “We found that smoking caused a significant increase in the expression of ACE2, the protein that SARS-CoV-2 uses to enter human cells.”

The work appears in a paper in Developmental Cell titled, “Cigarette smoke exposure and inflammatory signaling increase the expression of the SARS-CoV-2 receptor ACE2 in the respiratory tract.

ACE2, or Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2, is a regulatory protein that has been linked to vulnerability to the 2003 SARS (2003) virus. “Evidence from mouse experiments has shown that higher levels of ACE2 make mice more susceptible to SARS,” said Sheltzer. More recent work with SARS-CoV-2 found that when human ACE2 was highly expressed in mice infected with COVID-19, they died more quickly.”

In humans, the lungs act as one of the primary locations of ACE2 production. To assess the direct impact of smoking on ACE2 expression in the lungs, Sheltzer compared ACE2 gene expression from the lung epithelial tissue of people who smoked cigarettes regularly to those who had never smoked. “We found that smoking cause... Want to read more? You can find the entire article in the Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News (GEN) Blog.

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