scRNA-seq Profiling of Human Testes Reveals the Presence of the ACE2 Receptor, A Target for SARS-CoV-2 Infection in Spermatogonia, Leydig and Sertoli Cells
Laboratory of Cellular and Developmental Biology, NIDDK, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA
Integrative Bioinformatics, ESCBL, NIEHS, National Institutes of Health, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Cells 2020, 9(4), 920; https://doi.org/10.3390/cells9040920
Received: 21 February 2020 / Revised: 30 March 2020 / Accepted: 8 April 2020 / Published: 9 April 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Cellular Pathology)
In December 2019, a novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) was identified in COVID-19 patients in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China. SARS-CoV-2 shares both high sequence similarity and the use of the same cell entry receptor, angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV). Several studies have provided bioinformatic evidence of potential routes of SARS-CoV-2 infection in respiratory, cardiovascular, digestive and urinary systems. However, whether the reproductive system is a potential target of SARS-CoV-2 infection has not yet been determined. Here, we investigate the expression pattern of ACE2 in adult human testes at the level of single-cell transcriptomes. The results indicate that ACE2 is predominantly enriched in spermatogonia and Leydig and Sertoli cells. Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA) indicates that Gene Ontology (GO) categories associated with viral reproduction and transmission are highly enriched in ACE2-positive spermatogonia, while male gamete generation related terms are downregulated. Cell–cell junction and immunity-related GO terms are increased in ACE2-positive Leydig and Sertoli cells, but mitochondria and reproduction-related GO terms are decreased. These findings provide evidence that the human testis is a potential target of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which may have significant impact on our understanding of the pathophysiology of this rapidly spreading disease.