Altered COVID-19 Receptor ACE2 Expression in a Higher Risk Group for Cerebrovascular Disease and Ischemic Stroke

Choi JY, Lee HK, Park JH, Cho SJ, Kwon M, Jo C, Koh YH
Source: Biochem Biophys Res Commun
Publication Date: (2020)
Issue: 528(3): 413-9
Research Area:
Gene Expression
Cells used in publication:
Endothelial, aortic, human (HAEC)
Species: human
Tissue Origin: aortic


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a worldwide pandemic. It has a high transmission rate among humans, and is a threat to global public health. However, there are no effective prophylactics or therapeutics available. It is necessary to identify vulnerable and susceptible groups for adequate protection and care against this disease. Recent studies have reported that COVID-19 has angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) as a functional receptor, which may lead to the development of severe cerebrovascular diseases (CVD), including strokes, in patients with risk factors for CVD such as diabetes and smoking. Thus, the World Health Organization (WHO) advised caution against COVID-19 for smokers and patients with underlying clinical symptoms, including cardiovascular diseases. Here, we observed ACE2 expression in the brain of rat middle cerebral artery occlusion (MCAO) model and evaluated the effects of cigarette smoke extract (CSE) and diabetes on ACE2 expression in vessels. We showed that the levels of ACE2 expression was increased in the cortex penumbra after ischemic injuries. CSE treatment significantly elevated ACE2 expression in human brain vessels. We found that ACE2 expression was upregulated in primary cultured human blood vessels with diabetes compared to healthy controls. This study demonstrates that ACE2 expression is increased in ischemic brains and vessels exposed to diabetes or smoking, makes them vulnerable to COVID-19 infection.