The World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 epidemic a public health emergency of international concern on March 11th, 2020, and the pandemic is rapidly spreading worldwide. COVID-19 is caused by a novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which enters human target cells via angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). We used a number of bioinformatics tools to computationally characterize ACE2 by determining its cell-specific expression in trachea, lung, and small intestine, derive its putative functions, and predict transcriptional regulation. The small intestine expressed higher levels of ACE2 than any other organ. The large intestine, kidney and testis showed moderate signals, whereas the signal was weak in the lung. Single cell RNA-Seq data from trachea indicated positive signals along the respiratory tract in key protective cell types including club HP
, goblet, proliferating, and ciliary epithelial cells; while in lung the ratio of ACE2-expressing cells was low in all cell types (<2.6%), but was highest in vascular endothelial and goblet cells. Gene ontology analysis suggested that, besides its classical role in renin-angiotensin system, ACE2 may be functionally associated with angiogenesis/ blood SERO
vessel morphogenesis. Using a novel tool for the prediction of transcription factor binding sites we identified several putative binding sites within two tissue-specific promoters of the ACE2 gene. Our results also confirmed that age TRANS
and gender TRANS
play no significant role in the regulation of ACE2 mRNA expression in the lung.
IMPORTANCEVaccines and new medicines are urgently needed to prevent spread of COVID-19 pandemic, reduce the symptoms, shorten the duration of disease, prevent virus spread in the body, and most importantly to save lives. One of the key drug targets could be angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which is a crucial receptor for the corona virus (SARS-CoV-2). It is known that SARS coronavirus infections lead to worse outcome in the elderly TRANS
and in males TRANS
. Therefore, one aim of the present study was to investigate whether age TRANS
or sex could contribute to the regulation of ACE2 expression. We also decided to explore the transcriptional regulation of ACE2 gene expression. Since data on ACE2 distribution is still conflicting, we aimed to get a more comprehensive view of the cell types expressing the receptor of SARS-CoV-2. Finally, we studied the coexpression of ACE2 with other genes and explored its putative functions using gene ontology enrichment analysis.