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Cell Discov


Infection of human peripheral blood cells by SARS-CoV-2 has been debated because immune cells lack mRNA expression of both angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and transmembrane serine protease type 2 (TMPRSS2). Herein we demonstrate that resting primary monocytes harbor abundant cytoplasmic ACE2 and TMPRSS2 protein and that circulating exosomes contain significant ACE2 protein. Upon ex vivo TLR4/7/8 stimulation, cytoplasmic ACE2 was quickly translocated to the monocyte cell surface independently of ACE2 transcription, while TMPRSS2 surface translocation occurred in conjunction with elevated mRNA expression. The rapid translocation of ACE2 to the monocyte cell surface was blocked by the endosomal trafficking inhibitor endosidin 2, suggesting that endosomal ACE2 could be derived from circulating ACE2-containing exosomes. TLR-stimulated monocytes concurrently expressing ACE2 and TMPRSS2 on the cell surface were efficiently infected by SARS-CoV-2, which was significantly mitigated by remdesivir, TMPRSS2 inhibitor camostat, and anti-ACE2 antibody. Mass cytometry showed that ACE2 surface translocation in peripheral myeloid cells from patients with severe COVID-19 correlated with its hyperactivation and PD-L1 expression. Collectively, TLR4/7/8-induced ACE2 translocation with TMPRSS2 expression makes circulating monocytes permissive to SARS-CoV-2 infection.

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