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Mol Immunol. 2022 Apr 27;147:1-9. doi: 10.1016/j.molimm.2022.04.008. Online ahead of print.
The novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has been shown to hijack angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) for entry into mammalian cells. A short isoform of ACE2, termed deltaACE2 (dACE2), has recently been identified. In contrast to ACE2, the short dACE2 isoform lacks the ability to bind the spike protein of SARS-CoV-2. Several studies have proposed that expression of ACE2 and/or dACE2 is induced by interferons (IFNs). Here, we report that drug-targeted inhibition or silencing of Unc51-like kinase 1 (ULK1) results in repression of type I IFN-induced expression of the dACE2 isoform. Notably, dACE2 is expressed in various squamous tumors. In efforts to identify pharmacological agents that target this pathway, we found that fisetin, a natural flavonoid, is an ULK1 inhibitor that decreases type I IFN-induced dACE2 expression. Taken together, our results establish a requirement for ULK1 in the regulation of type I IFN-induced transcription of dACE2 and raise the possibility of clinical translational applications of fisetin as a novel ULK1 inhibitor.