Single-cell expression profiles of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 reveals potential vertical transmission and fetus infection of SARS-CoV-2.Aging (Albany NY). 2020 10 26; 12(20):19880-19897.A
Morbidity and mortality of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is age-dependent. It remains unclear whether vertical severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) occurs during pregnancy and how such infection will affect fetal development. Here, we performed single-cell transcriptomic analysis of placenta and other tissues from fetuses in comparison with those from adults using public-available datasets. Our analysis revealed that a very small proportion of trophoblast cells expressed the Angiotensin I Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE2) gene, suggesting a low possibility of vertical transmission of SARS-CoV-2 from mother to fetus during pregnancy. We found that the fetal adrenal gland, heart, kidney and stomach were susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection, because these organs contained cell clusters that expressed high levels of the ACE2 gene. In particular, a higher proportion of ACE2-expressing cell clusters in the adrenal gland and kidney also expressed the Transmembrane Serine Protease 2 (TMPRSS2) gene compared with other organs. Surprisingly, ACE2-expressing type II alveolar (AT2) equivalent cells were absent in fetal lungs. This is in sharp contrast to adult lungs. As ACE2 expression is regulated by various conditions, including oxygen concentration, inflammation and smoking, caution is warranted to avoid triggering potential ACE2 expression in fetal and placental tissue.