Vitamin D and interferon-γ co-operate to increase the ACE-2 receptor expression in primary cultures of human thyroid cells
A more severe course of COVID-19 was associated with low levels of Vitamin D (VitD). Moreover in vitro data showed that VitD up-regulates the mRNA of the Angiotensin Converting Enzyme 2 (ACE-2), the SARS-COV-2 receptor in different type of cells. ACE-2 is expressed in several type of tissues including thyroid cells, on which its mRNA was shown to be up-regulated by interferon-gamma (IFN-γ). The aim of the present study was to investigate if treatment with VitD alone or in combination with IFN-γ would increase ACE-2 both at mRNA and protein levels in primary cultures of human thyrocytes.
Materials and methods
Primary thyroid cell cultures were treated with VitD and IFN-γ alone or in combination for 24 h. ACE-2 mRNA levels were measured by Real-time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). The presence of ACE-2 on thyroid cell membrane was assessed by immunocytochemistry basally and after the previous mentioned treatments.
ACE-2 mRNA levels increased after treatment with VitD and IFN-γ alone. The combination treatment (VitD + IFN-γ) showed an additive increase of ACE-2-mRNA. Immunocytochemistry experiments showed ACE-2 protein on thyroid cells membrane. ACE-2 expression increased after treatment with VitD and IFN-γ alone and further increased by the combination treatment with VitD + IFN-γ.
VitD would defend the body by SARS-COV2 both by regulating the host immune defense and by up-regulating of the expression of the ACE-2 receptor. The existence of a co-operation between VitD and IFN-γ demonstrated in other systems is supported also for ACE-2 up-regulation. These observations lead to an increased interest for the potential therapeutic benefits of VitD supplementation in COVID-19.