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Targeting androgen regulation of TMPRSS2 and ACE2 as a therapeutic strategy to combat COVID-19

By Qu Deng, Reyaz ur Rasool, Ronnie M Russell, Ramakrishnan Natesan, Irfan A Asangani

Posted 16 Oct 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.10.16.342782

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to have an adverse effect on the progression of multiple cancers, including prostate cancer, due to the ensuing cytokine storm and associated oncogenic signaling. Epidemiological data showing increased severity and mortality of COVID-19 in men suggests a potential role for androgen in SARS-CoV-2 infection. Here, we present evidence for the transcriptional regulation of SARS-CoV-2 host cell receptor ACE2 and co-receptor TMPRSS2 by androgen in mouse tissues and human prostate and lung cell lines. Additionally, we demonstrate the endogenous interaction between TMPRSS2 and ACE2 in human cells and validate ACE2 as a TMPRSS2 substrate. In an overexpression model, and the prostate and lung cells, Camostat - a TMPRSS2 inhibitor, blocked the cleavage of pseudotype SARS-CoV-2 surface Spike without disrupting TMPRSS2-ACE2 interaction. Thus providing evidence for the first time a direct role of TMPRSS2 in priming the SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein, required for viral fusion to the host cell. Importantly, androgen-deprivation, anti-androgens such as enzalutamide/AR-PROTAC, or Camostat treatment attenuated the SARS-CoV-2 S-mediated entry in lung and prostate cells. Together, our preclinical data provide a strong rationale for clinical evaluations of the TMPRSS2 inhibitors, androgen-deprivation therapy and androgen receptor antagonists alone or in combination with anti-viral drugs as early as clinically possible to prevent inflammation driven COVID-19 progression.

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