Engineering Extracellular Vesicles Enriched with Palmitoylated ACE2 as COVID-19 Therapy

Feng Xie, Peng Su, Ting Pan, Xiaoxue Zhou, Heyu Li, Huizhe Huang, Aijun Wang, Fangwei Wang, Jun Huang, Haiyan Yan, Linghui Zeng, Long Zhang, Fangfang Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a key receptor present on cell surfaces that directly interacts with the viral spike (S) protein of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is proposed that inhibiting this interaction can be promising in treating COVID-19. Here, the presence of ACE2 in extracellular vesicles (EVs) is reported and the EV-ACE2 levels are determined by protein palmitoylation. The Cys141 and Cys498 residues on ACE2 are S-palmitoylated by zinc finger DHHC-Type Palmitoyltransferase 3 (ZDHHC3) and de-palmitoylated by acyl protein thioesterase 1 (LYPLA1), which is critical for the membrane-targeting of ACE2 and their EV secretion. Importantly, by fusing the S-palmitoylation-dependent plasma membrane (PM) targeting sequence with ACE2, EVs enriched with ACE2 on their surface (referred to as PM-ACE2-EVs) are engineered. It is shown that PM-ACE2-EVs can bind to the SARS-CoV-2 S-RBD with high affinity and block its interaction with cell surface ACE2 in vitro. PM-ACE2-EVs show neutralization potency against pseudotyped and authentic SARS-CoV-2 in human ACE2 (hACE2) transgenic mice, efficiently block viral load of authentic SARS-CoV-2, and thus protect host against SARS-CoV-2-induced lung inflammation. The study provides an efficient engineering protocol for constructing a promising, novel biomaterial for application in prophylactic and therapeutic treatments against COVID-19.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalAdvanced Materials
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • ACE2
  • extracellular vesicles
  • palmitoylation
  • SARS-CoV-2

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Materials Science(all)
  • Mechanics of Materials
  • Mechanical Engineering


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