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Gene of the month: TMPRSS2 (transmembrane serine protease 2)
  1. Michelle Thunders,
  2. Brett Delahunt
  1. Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Wellington, New Zealand
  1. Correspondence to Dr Michelle Thunders, Pathology and Molecular Medicine, Wellington School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Wellington 6242, New Zealand; michelle.thunders{at}


Transmembrane serine protease 2 is encoded by the TMPRSS2 gene. The gene is widely conserved and has two isoforms, both being autocatalytically activated from the inactive zymogen form. A fusion gene between the TMPRSS2 gene and ERG (erythroblast-specific-related gene), an oncogenic transcription factor, is the most common chromosomal aberration detected in prostate cancer, responsible for driving carcinogenesis. The other key role of TMPRSS2 is in priming the viral spike protein which facilitates viral entry essential for viral infectivity. The protease activates a diverse range of viruses. Both SARS-CoV and SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) use angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and TMPRSS2 to facilitate entry to cells, but with SARS-CoV-2 human-to-human transmission is much higher than SARS-CoV. As TMPRSS2 is expressed outside of the lung, and can therefore contribute to extrapulmonary spread of viruses, it warrants further exploration as a potential target for limiting viral spread and infectivity.

  • genetics
  • prostate
  • carcinoma
  • virology
  • enzymes

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  • Handling editor Tahir S Pillay.

  • Contributors MT and BD facilitated the conception and design of the project, drafted the manuscript and revised it critically for intellectual content.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.