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Cardiorenal tissues express SARS-CoV-2 entry genes and basigin (BSG/CD147) increases with age in endothelial cells

  • Ahmetaj-Shala, B
  • Ricky, V
  • Santosh, A
  • Peter, G
  • Nicholas, K
  • Jane, M
Publication Date
Sep 18, 2020
Spiral - Imperial College Digital Repository


Objectives: To obtain mechanistic insight into COVID-19 within a cardiovascular setting. Background: Thrombosis and vascular dysfunction are part of the complex pathology seen in severe COVID-19 and advancing age is the most significant risk factor. Little is known about age and expression of pathways utilised by the COVID-19 virus, SARS-CoV-2, in cardiovascular tissues. Methods: We used publicly available databases (GTEx, GEO and Array Express) to investigate gene expression levels, in adult tissues, of the two putative SARS-CoV-2 receptors, ACE2 and BSG along with a selected range of genes thought to be involved in virus binding/processing. Our analysis included; vessels (aorta and coronary artery), heart (atrial appendage and left ventricle), kidney (cortex), whole blood, lung, colon and spleen along with endothelial cells, nasal and bronchial epithelium and peripheral blood mononuclear cells. Gene expression levels were then analysed for age associations. Results: We found: (i) cardiovascular tissues/endothelial cells express the required genes for SARS-CoV-2 infection, (ii) SARS-CoV-2 receptor pathways, ACE2/TMPRSS2 and BSG/PPIB(A) polarise to lung/epithelium and vessel/endothelium respectively, (iii) expression of host genes are relatively stable with age and (iv) notable exceptions are ACE2 which decreases with age in some tissues and BSG which increases with age in endothelial cells. Conclusion: Our data identifies a positive correlation of BSG with age in endothelial cells. Since BSG is utilised by other pathogens and is implicated in a range of cardiovascular disease, our observations may have relevance to our understanding of mechanisms associated with other pathogens and in the diseases associated with aging respectively.

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