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

      Hernández, Vito S; Zetter, Mario A; Guerra, Enrique C; Hernández-Araiza, Ileana; Karuzin, Nikita; Hernández-Pérez, Oscar R; Eiden, Lee E; Zhang, Limei (Elsevier Inc., 2021-08-13)
      We examined cell type-specific expression and distribution of rat brain angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the receptor for SARS-CoV-2, in the 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, the pre-Bötzinger 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 Bötzinger, and pre-Bötzinger complexes and the nucleus of tractus solitarius; in the arousal-related pontine reticular nucleus and 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 supramammillary 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.