The outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) was caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), through its surface spike glycoprotein (S-protein) recognition on the receptor Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) in humans. However, it remains unclear how genetic variations in ACE2 may affect its function and structure, and consequently alter the recognition by SARS-CoV-2.
We have systemically characterized missense variants in the gene ACE2 using data from the Genome Aggregation Database (gnomAD; N = 141,456). To investigate the putative deleterious role of missense variants, six existing functional prediction tools were applied to evaluate their impact. We further analyzed the structural flexibility of ACE2 and its protein-protein interface with the S-protein of SARS-CoV-2 using our developed Legion Interfaces Analysis (LiAn) program.
Here, we characterized a total of 12 ACE2 putative deleterious missense variants. Of those 12 variants, we further showed that p.His378Arg could directly weaken the binding of catalytic metal atom to decrease ACE2 activity and p.Ser19Pro could distort the most important helix to the S-protein. Another seven missense variants may affect secondary structures (i.e. p.Gly211Arg; p.Asp206Gly; p.Arg219Cys; p.Arg219His, p.Lys341Arg, p.Ile468Val, and p.Ser547Cys), whereas p.Ile468Val with AF = 0.01 is only present in Asian.
We provide strong evidence of putative deleterious missense variants in ACE2 that are present in specific populations, which could disrupt the function and structure of ACE2. These findings provide novel insight into the genetic variation in ACE2 which may affect the SARS-CoV-2 recognition and infection, and COVID-19 susceptibility and treatment.