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Colon Cancer and SARS-CoV-2: Impact of ACE2 Expression in Susceptibility to COVID-19

By Mohsen Ahmadi, Negin Saffarzadeh, Mohammad Amin Habibi, Fatemeh Hajiesmaeili, Nima Rezaei

Posted 13 Jun 2020
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/2020.06.11.146878

Novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has become a global health emergency. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) interacts with angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to enter the cells and infects diverse human tissues. It has been reported that a few conditions, including cancer, predispose individuals to SARS-CoV-2 infection and severe form of COVID-19. These findings led us to evaluate the susceptibility of colon adenocarcinoma (COAD) patients to SARS-CoV-2 infection by investigation of ACE2 expression in their tumor tissues. The expression analysis revealed that both mRNA and protein levels of ACE2 had increased in colon cancer samples than normal group. Next, the prognosis analysis has indicated that the upregulation of ACE2 was not correlated with patient survival outcomes. Further assessment displayed the hypomethylation of the ACE2 gene promoter in COAD patients. Surprisingly, this methylation status has a strong negative correlation with ACE2 gene expression. The functional enrichment analysis of the genes that had similar expression patterns with ACE2 in colon cancer tissues demonstrated that they mainly enriched in Vitamin digestion and absorption, Sulfur relay system, and Fat digestion and absorption pathways. Finally, we found that ACE2 gene expression had a significant association with the immune cell infiltration levels in COAD patients. In conclusion, it has plausible that COAD patients are more likely to be infected with SARS-CoV-2 and experience severe injuries. Moreover, COVID-19 would bring unfavorable survival outcomes of patients with colon cancer by the way of immune cell infiltration linked process. The present study highlights the importance of preventive actions for COAD patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. ### Competing Interest Statement The authors have declared no competing interest.

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