The severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) global pandemic has led to millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths. While older adults appear at high risk for severe disease, hospitalizations and deaths due to SARS-CoV-2 among children have been relatively rare. Integrating single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-seq) of developing mouse lung with temporally resolved immunofluorescence in mouse and human lung tissue, we found that expression of SARS-CoV-2 Spike protein primer TMPRSS2 was highest in ciliated cells and type I alveolar epithelial cells (AT1), and TMPRSS2 expression increased with aging in mice and humans. Analysis of autopsy tissue from fatal COVID-19 cases detected SARS-CoV-2 RNA most frequently in ciliated and secretory cells in airway epithelium and AT1 cells in peripheral lung. SARS-CoV-2 RNA was highly colocalized in cells expressing TMPRSS2. Together, these data demonstrate the cellular spectrum infected by SARS-CoV-2 in lung epithelium and suggest that developmental regulation of TMPRSS2 may underlie the relative protection of infants and children from severe respiratory illness.
Bryce A. Schuler, A. Christian Habermann, Erin J. Plosa, Chase J. Taylor, Christopher Jetter, Nicholas M. Negretti, Meghan E. Kapp, John T. Benjamin, Peter Gulleman, David S. Nichols, Lior Z. Braunstein, Alice Hackett, Michael Koval, Susan H. Guttentag, Timothy S. Blackwell, Steven A. Webber, Nicholas E. Banovich, Vanderbilt COVID-19 Consortium Cohort, Human Cell Atlas Biological Network, Jonathan A. Kropski, Jennifer M.S. Sucre