Potential New Strategy Against Coronavirus Infection

Potential New Strategy Against Coronavirus Infection

To infect human cells, the novel coronavirus must first latch onto a cell-surface receptor called angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2). Less well known is that the virus’ successful entry into cells depends on a second step: the enzyme transmembrane protease serine 2 (TMPRSS2), located in the cell’s membrane, must slice off part of the ACE2 receptor.

In a study published online on October 30 in Biomedicines, Gaetano Santulli, M.D., Ph.D., and colleagues have found that the microRNA miR-98-5p effectively targets TMPRSS2 in endothelial cells. (MicroRNAs are a recently discovered class of non-coding RNAs that play crucial roles in regulating gene expression.) Experiments revealed that miR-98-5p reduces expression levels of TMPRSS2 in two different types of human endothelial cells. These findings suggest that non-coding RNAs such as miR-98-5p might be useful in treating or preventing coronavirus infection. Dr. Santulli’s team had previously shown that endothelial cells are key players in COVID-19.

Dr. Santulli is an assistant professor of medicine and of molecular pharmacology at Einstein.

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