bioRxiv. 2020 Sep 2:2020.09.01.278366. doi: 10.1101/2020.09.01.278366. Preprint.
People with underlying conditions, including hypertension, obesity, and diabetes, are especially susceptible to negative outcomes after infection with the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. These COVID-19 comorbidities are exacerbated by the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS), which normally protects from rapidly dropping blood pressure or dehydration via the peptide Angiotensin II (Ang II) produced by the enzyme Ace. The Ace paralog Ace2 degrades Ang II, thus counteracting its chronic effects. Ace2 is also the SARS-CoV-2 receptor. Ace , the coronavirus, and COVID-19 comorbidities all regulate Ace2 , but we don’t yet understand how. To exploit zebrafish ( Danio rerio ) as a disease model to understand mechanisms regulating the RAAS and its relationship to COVID-19 comorbidities, we must first identify zebrafish orthologs and co-orthologs of human RAAS genes, and second, understand where and when these genes are expressed in specific cells in zebrafish development. To achieve these goals, we conducted genomic analyses and investigated single cell transcriptomes. Results showed that most human RAAS genes have an ortholog in zebrafish and some have two or more co-orthologs. Results further identified a specific intestinal cell type in zebrafish larvae as the site of expression for key RAAS components, including Ace, Ace2, the coronavirus co-receptor Slc6a19, and the Angiotensin-related peptide cleaving enzymes Anpep and Enpep. Results also identified specific vascular cell subtypes as expressing Ang II receptors, apelin , and apelin receptor genes. These results identify specific genes and cell types to exploit zebrafish as a disease model for understanding the mechanisms leading to COVID-19 comorbidities.
SUMMARY STATEMENT: Genomic analyses identify zebrafish orthologs of the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System that contribute to COVID-19 comorbidities and single-cell transcriptomics show that they act in a specialized intestinal cell type.