ACE2 Expression is Increased in the Lungs of Patients with Comorbidities Associated with Severe COVID-19

Patients who died from COVID-19 often had comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, and chronic obstructive lung disease. Although angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is crucial for SARS-CoV2 to bind and enter host cells, no study has systematically assessed the ACE2 expression in the lungs of patients with these diseases. Here, we analyzed over 700 lung transcriptome samples of patients with comorbidities associated with severe COVID-19 and found that ACE2 was highly expressed in these patients, compared to control individuals. This finding suggests that patients with such comorbidities may have higher chances of developing severe COVID-19. Correlation and network analyses revealed many potential regulators of ACE2 in the human lung, including genes related to histone modifications, such as HAT1, HDAC2, and KDM5B. Our systems biology approach offers a possible explanation for increase of COVID-19 severity in patients with certain comorbidities.