ACE-2, TMPRSS2, and Neuropilin-1 Receptor Expression on Human Brain Astrocytes and Pericytes and SARS-CoV-2 Infection Kinetics

Johid Reza Malik, Arpan Acharya, Sean N. Avedissian, Siddappa N. Byrareddy, Courtney V. Fletcher, Anthony T. Podany, Shetty Ravi Dyavar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE-2), Transmembrane Serine Protease 2 (TMPRSS-2) and Neuropilin-1 cellular receptors support the entry of SARS-CoV-2 into susceptible human target cells and are characterized at the molecular level. Some evidence on the expression of entry receptors at mRNA and protein levels in brain cells is available, but co-expression of these receptors and confirmatory evidence on brain cells is lacking. SARS-CoV-2 infects some brain cell types, but infection susceptibility, multiple entry receptor density, and infection kinetics are rarely reported in specific brain cell types. Highly sensitive Taqman ddPCR, flow-cytometry and immunocytochemistry assays were used to quantitate the expression of ACE-2, TMPRSS-2 and Neuropilin-1 at mRNA and protein levels on human brain-extracted pericytes and astrocytes, which are an integral part of the Blood-Brain-Barrier (BBB). Astrocytes showed moderate ACE-2 (15.9 ± 1.3%, Mean ± SD, n = 2) and TMPRSS-2 (17.6%) positive cells, and in contrast show high Neuropilin-1 (56.4 ± 39.8%, n = 4) protein expression. Whereas pericytes showed variable ACE-2 (23.1 ± 20.7%, n = 2), Neuropilin-1 (30.3 ± 7.5%, n = 4) protein expression and higher TMPRSS-2 mRNA (667.2 ± 232.3, n = 3) expression. Co-expression of multiple entry receptors on astrocytes and pericytes allows entry of SARS-CoV-2 and progression of infection. Astrocytes showed roughly four-fold more virus in culture supernatants than pericytes. SARS-CoV-2 cellular entry receptor expression and “in vitro” viral kinetics in astrocytes and pericytes may improve our understanding of viral infection “in vivo”. In addition, this study may facilitate the development of novel strategies to counter the effects of SARS-CoV-2 and inhibit viral infection in brain tissues to prevent the spread and interference in neuronal functions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number8622
JournalInternational journal of molecular sciences
Issue number10
StatePublished - May 2023


  • ACE-2
  • COVID-19
  • Neuropilin-1
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • TMPRSS-2
  • astrocytes
  • brain microvascular endothelial cells and blood-brain-barrier
  • pericytes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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