Age-determined expression of priming protease TMPRSS2 and localization of SARS-CoV-2 infection in the lung epithelium

Bryce A. Schuler, A. Christian Habermann, Erin J. Plosa, Chase J. Taylor, Christopher Jetter, Meghan E. Kapp, John T. Benjamin, Peter Gulleman, David S. Nichols, Lior Z. Braunstein, Alice Hackett, View ORCID ProfileMichael Koval, Susan H. Guttentag, Timothy S. Blackwell, Vanderbilt COVID-19 Consortium Cohort, Steven A. Webber, Nicholas E. Banovich, View ORCID ProfileJonathan A. Kropski, Jennifer M. S. Sucre, HCA Lung Biological Network

bioRxiv | Posted August 03, 2020 | This article is a preprint and has not been certified by peer review | doi:

The SARS-CoV-2 novel coronavirus global pandemic (COVID-19) has led to millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths around the globe. While the elderly appear at high risk for severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 among children have been relatively rare. Integrating single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of the developing mouse lung with temporally-resolved RNA-in-situ hybridization (ISH) in mouse and human lung tissue, we found that expression of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein primer TMPRSS2 was highest in ciliated cells and type I alveolar epithelial cells (AT1), and TMPRSS2 expression was increased with aging in mice and humans. Analysis of autopsy tissue from fatal COVID-19 cases revealed SARS-CoV-2 RNA was detected most frequently in ciliated and secretory cells in the airway epithelium and AT1 cells in the peripheral lung. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was highly colocalized in cells expressing TMPRSS2. Together, these data demonstrate the cellular spectrum infected by SARS-CoV-2 in the lung epithelium, and suggest that developmental regulation of TMPRSS2 may underlie the relative protection of infants and children from severe respiratory illness.

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