Human eggs, zygotes, and embryos express the receptor angiotensin 1-converting enzyme 2 and transmembrane serine protease 2 protein necessary for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 infection

Gamete Biology

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VOLUME 2, ISSUE 1, P33-42, FEBRUARY 01, 2021


Sandeep K. Rajput, Ph.D., Deirdre M. Logsdon, M.S., Becca Kile, M.S., Heidi J. Engelhorn, M.S., Ben Goheen, B.S., Shaihla Khan, Ph.D., Jason Swain, Ph.D., H.C.L.D., Sue McCormick, B.S., William B. Schoolcraft, M.D., Ye Yuan, Ph.D., Rebecca L. Krisher, Ph.D.



To study messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and protein expressions of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) entry receptors (angiotensin 1-converting enzyme 2 [ACE2] and CD147) and proteases (transmembrane serine protease 2 [TMPRSS2] and cathepsin L [CTSL]) in human oocytes, embryos, and cumulus (CCs) and granulosa cells (GCs).


Research study.


Clinical in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment center.


Patients undergoing IVF were treated at the Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine.


Oocytes (germinal vesicle and metaphase II [MII]) and embryos (1-cell [1C] and blastocyst [BL]) were donated for research at the disposition by the patients undergoing IVF. Follicular cells (CC and GC) were collected from women undergoing egg retrieval after ovarian stimulation without an ovulatory trigger for in vitro maturation/IVF treatment cycles.

Main Outcome Measures

Presence or absence of ACE2, CD147, TMPRSS2, and CTSL mRNAs detected using quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction and proteins detected using capillary Western blotting in human oocytes, embryos, and ovarian follicular cells.


The quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction analysis revealed high abundance of ACE2 gene transcripts in germinal vesicle and MII oocytes than in CC, GC, and BL. ACE2 protein was present only in the MII oocytes, and 1C and BL embryos, but other ACE2 protein variants were observed in all the samples. TMPRSS2 protein was present in all the samples, whereas mRNA was observed only in the BL stage. All the samples were positive for CD147 and CTSL mRNA expressions. However, CCs and GCs were the only samples that showed coexpression of both CD147 and CTSL proteins in low abundance.


CCs and GCs are the least susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection because of lack of the required combination of receptors and proteases (ACE2/TMPRSS2 or CD147/CTSL) in high abundance. The coexpression of ACE2 and TMPRSS2 proteins in the MII oocytes, zygotes, and BLs demonstrated that these gametes and embryos have the cellular machinery required and, thus, are potentially susceptible to SARS-CoV-2 infection if exposed to the virus. However, we do not know whether the infection occurs in vivo or in vitro in an assisted reproductive technology setting yet.

Fertility and Sterility

Editorial Office, American Society for Reproductive Medicine

Fertility and Sterility® is an international journal for obstetricians, gynecologists, reproductive endocrinologists, urologists, basic scientists and others who treat and investigate problems of infertility and human reproductive disorders.