Background: Interleukin-33 (IL-33) is an important cytokine in the pathophysiology of atopic dermatitis (AD) and in the progression of COVID-19. Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the entry receptor for SARS-CoV-2, is expressed in epidermal keratinocytes. Whether IL-33 could regulate the expression of ACE2 mechanistically in keratinocytes warrants investigation. Objective: We questioned whether the ACE2 expression is increased in AD skin. We also questioned whether ACE2 is expressed in keratinocytes; if so, would its expression be enhanced mechanistically by IL-33. Methods: We measured and compared the expression of ACE2 in skin from patients with AD, patients with psoriasis, and healthy controls using immunohistochemistry. Flow cytometry, immunofluorescent exam, and quantitative RT-PCR were used for measuring the ACE2 expression in cultured keratinocytes treated with IL-33 and IL-17. Blocking antibodies were utilized to study the intracellular signaling pathways governing the ACE2 expression using cytokines. Results: The results showed that the ACE2 expression is increased in AD compared with that in healthy skin and psoriasis. In primary epidermal keratinocytes, ACE2 is constitutively expressed. IL-33 induces a time-dependent increase in ACE2 expression in cultured keratinocytes through quantitative PCR, flow cytometry, and immunofluorescent examinations. Furthermore, pretreatment of an ERK inhibitor, but not a STAT3 inhibitor, eliminated the increases in ACE2 by IL-33 in keratinocytes, indicating that IL-33 enhances ACE2 expression through ERK on epidermal keratinocytes. Conclusion: This is the first study to reveal that IL-33 enhances ACE2 expression on keratinocytes via ERK. Although further mechanistic studies are required, the increased ACE2 expression in IL-33 might have a biological implication on the transmission of SARS-CoV-2 in patients with AD.
- angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)
- atopic dermatitis
- interleukin-33 (IL-33)