Towards better understanding on how our genes can affect susceptibility of infection to COVID-19


SARS-CoV-2, the virus behind the COVID-19 pandemic is known to bind ACE2 receptors on the surface of human cells, especially those in the lungs, to cause infection. Different populations show different variations in the ACE2 protein sequence. However, the susceptibility of different populations to SARS-CoV-2 infection is not yet understood. In an attempt to study this question better, researchers from Zewail City of Science and Technology; Dr. Mohamed Alkordi and Dr. Menattallah Elserafy in collaboration with Dr. Muhamed Amin and Fedaa Ali from University of Groningen, Netherlands, collaborated on a recently published research project.


In their study, the authors attempted to investigate whether variations in ACE2 could affect the binding of SARS-CoV-2 to human cells, through calculations of the virus-protein binding. They could find that certain variations; most frequent in the Ashkenazi Jewish population decreased the SARS-CoV-2 binding to ACE2. On the contrary, other variations in in East Asian, South Asian, African, African American, European and South Asian populations, resulted in an increase in the binding of the virus to the human cell receptor, where variations within Euoropean populations seemed to increase the binding of the virus to its receptors. These results indicate that genetic variations in ACE2 in different populations affect its binding to SARS-CoV-2, which means that different populations could show different risks for SARS-CoV-2 cellular infection. The results open doors for further laboratory investigations to estimate the risks of certain populations to the virus infection.


The study was published in August 2020 in Biochemistry and Biophysics Reports.