To predict the tropism of human coronaviruses, researchers from Cornell University and the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases profiled 28 SARS-CoV-2 and coronavirus-associated receptors and factors (SCARFs) using single-cell RNA-sequencing data from a wide range of healthy human tissues. SCARFs include cellular factors both facilitating and restricting viral entry. Among adult organs, enterocytes and goblet cells of the small intestine and colon, kidney proximal tubule cells, and gallbladder basal cells appear most permissive to SARS-CoV-2, consistent with clinical data. The analysis also suggests alternate entry paths for SARS-CoV-2 infection of the lung, central nervous system, and heart. The researchers predict spermatogonial cells and prostate endocrine cells, but not ovarian cells, to be highly permissive to SARS-CoV-2, suggesting male-specific vulnerabilities. Early stages of embryonic and placental development show a moderate risk of infection. The nasal epithelium looks like another battleground, characterized by high expression of both promoting and restriction factors and a potential age-dependent shift in SCARF expression. Lastly, SCARF expression appears broadly conserved across human, chimpanzee and macaque organs examined. Our study establishes an important resource for investigations of coronavirus biology and pathology.
SARS-CoV-2 and coronavirus-associated receptors and factors (SCARFs)
A cartoon illustration of the infection cycle of SARS-CoV-2 and its cellular interaction with entry factors (cell surface receptors, proteases, restriction factors) and post-entry factors (replication and assembly/trafficking factors) considered in this study. See text and Table S2 for further description and references.