Coronavirus disease-19 and fertility: viral host entry protein expression in male and female reproductive tissues
The effects of COVID-19 on male and female fertility are uncertain. To improve understanding, the gene and protein expression patterns of SARS-Cov-2 host entry proteins were assessed in reproductive tissues.
Volume 114, Issue 1, Pages 33–43
Kate E. Stanley, B.A, Elizabeth Thomas, B.A., Megan Leaver, M.Sc., Dagan Wells, Ph.D.
To identify cell types in the male and female reproductive systems at risk for SARS-CoV-2 infection because of the expression of host genes and proteins used by the virus for cell entry.
Descriptive analysis of transcriptomic and proteomic data.
Academic research department and clinical diagnostic laboratory.
Not applicable (focus was on previously generated gene and protein expression data).
Main Outcome Measure(s)
Identification of cell types coexpressing the key angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane serine protease 2 (TMPRSS2) genes and proteins as well as other candidates potentially involved in SARS-CoV-2 cell entry.
On the basis of single-cell RNA sequencing data, coexpression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 was not detected in testicular cells, including sperm. A subpopulation of oocytes in nonhuman primate ovarian tissue was found to express ACE2 and TMPRSS2, but coexpression was not observed in ovarian somatic cells. RNA expression of TMPRSS2 in 18 samples of human cumulus cells was shown to be low or absent. There was general agreement between publicly available bulk RNA and protein datasets in terms of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 expression patterns in testis, ovary, endometrial, and placental cells.
These analyses suggest that SARS-CoV-2 infection is unlikely to have long-term effects on male and female reproductive function. Although the results cannot be considered definitive, they imply that procedures in which oocytes are collected and fertilized in vitro are associated with very little risk of viral transmission from gametes to embryos and may indeed have the potential to minimize exposure of susceptible reproductive cell types to infection in comparison with natural conception.