May 18, 2021

ACE2 expression in rat brain: implications for COVID-19 associated neurological manifestations

<p>We examined cell type-specific expression and distribution of rat brain angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the receptor for SARS-CoV-2, in rodent brain. ACE2 is ubiquitously present in brain vasculature, with the highest density of ACE2 expressing capillaries found in the olfactory bulb, the hypothalamic paraventricular, supraoptic and mammillary nuclei, the midbrain substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area, and the hindbrain pontine nucleus, pre-Botzinger complex, and nucleus of tractus solitarius. ACE2 was expressed in astrocytes and astrocytic foot processes, pericytes and endothelial cells, key components of the blood-brain-barrier. We found discrete neuronal groups immunopositive for ACE2 in brainstem respiratory rhythm generating centers including the pontine nucleus, the parafascicular/retrotrapezoid nucleus, the parabrachial nucleus, the Botzinger and pre-Botzinger complex and the nucleus of tractus solitarius; in arousal-related pontine reticular nucleus and in gigantocellular reticular nuclei; in brainstem aminergic nuclei, including substantia nigra, ventral tegmental area, dorsal raphe, and locus coeruleus; in the epithalamic habenula, hypothalamic paraventricular and suprammamillary nuclei; and in the hippocampus. Identification of ACE2-expressing neurons in rat brain within well-established functional circuits facilitates prediction of possible neurological manifestations of brain ACE2 dysregulation during and after COVID-19 infection.</p>
<p> bioRxiv Subject Collection: Neuroscience</p>
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