ACE2 and SARS-CoV-2 Expression in the Normal and COVID-19 Pancreas

Abstract

Diabetes is associated with increased mortality from Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). Given literature suggesting a potential association between SARS-CoV-2 infection and diabetes induction, we examined pancreatic expression of the key molecule for SARS-CoV-2 infection of cells, angiotensin-converting enzyme-2 (ACE2). Specifically, we analyzed five public scRNAseq pancreas datasets and performed fluorescence in situ hybridization, Western blotting, and immunolocalization for ACE2 with extensive reagent validation on normal human pancreatic tissues across the lifespan, as well as those from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) patients. These in silico and ex vivo analyses demonstrated pancreatic expression of ACE2 is prominent in pancreatic ductal epithelium and the microvasculature, with rare endocrine cell expression of this molecule. Pancreata from COVID-19 patients demonstrated multiple thrombotic lesions with SARS-CoV-2 nucleocapsid protein expression primarily limited to ducts. SARS-CoV-2 infection of pancreatic endocrine cells, via ACE2, appears an unlikely central pathogenic feature of COVID-19 as it relates to diabetes.

Competing Interest Statement

The authors have declared no competing interest.

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