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Preprint in English | MEDLINE | ID: ppcovidwho-326588


Reports of new-onset diabetes and diabetic ketoacidosis in individuals with COVID-19 have led to the hypothesis that SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is directly cytotoxic to pancreatic islet beta cells. This would require binding and entry of SARS-CoV-2 into host beta cells via cell surface co-expression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2, the putative receptor and effector protease, respectively. To define ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression in the human pancreas, we examined six transcriptional datasets from primary human islet cells and assessed protein expression by immunofluorescence in pancreata from donors with and without diabetes. ACE2 and TMPRSS2 transcripts were low or undetectable in pancreatic islet endocrine cells as determined by bulk or single cell RNA sequencing, and neither protein was detected in alpha or beta cells from these donors. Instead, ACE2 protein was expressed in the islet and exocrine tissue microvasculature and also found in a subset of pancreatic ducts, whereas TMPRSS2 protein was restricted to ductal cells. The absence of significant ACE2 and TMPRSS2 co-expression in islet endocrine cells reduces the likelihood that SARS-CoV-2 directly infects pancreatic islet beta cells through these cell entry proteins.