It is unclear whether severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2, which causes coronavirus disease 2019, can enter the brain. Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 binds to cells via the S1 subunit of its spike protein. We show that intravenously injected radioiodinated S1 (I-S1) readily crossed the blood–brain barrier in male mice, was taken up by brain regions and entered the parenchymal brain space. I-S1 was also taken up by the lung, spleen, kidney and liver. Intranasally administered I-S1 also entered the brain, although at levels roughly ten times lower than after intravenous administration. APOE genotype and sex did not affect whole-brain I-S1 uptake but had variable effects on uptake by the olfactory bulb, liver, spleen and kidney. I-S1 uptake in the hippocampus and olfactory bulb was reduced by lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation. Mechanistic studies indicated that I-S1 crosses the blood–brain barrier by adsorptive transcytosis and that murine angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 is involved in brain and lung uptake, but not in kidney, liver or spleen uptake.
ASJC Scopus subject areas