Background: The renin-angiotensin aldosterone system (RAAS) is a hormonal cascade that functions in the homeostatic control of arterial pressure, tissue perfusion, and extracellular volume. Dysregulation of the RAAS plays an important role in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular and renal disorders.
Objectives: To review the role of the RAAS in the development of hypertensive cardiovascular disease and related conditions and provide an overview of the classes of pharmacologic agents that inhibit this system.
Results: The RAAS is initiated by the regulated secretion of renin, the rate-limiting enzyme that catalyzes the hydrolysis of angiotensin (Ang) I from the N-terminus of angiotensinogen. Ang I is in turn hydrolyzed by angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) to form Ang II, a potent vasoconstrictor and the primary active product of the RAAS. Recent evidence has suggested that other metabolites of Ang I and II may have biological activity, particularly in tissues. Development of agents that block the RAAS (e.g., beta blockers, ACE inhibitors [ACE Is], and angiotensin receptor blockers [ARBs]) began as a therapeutic strategy to treat hypertension. Preclinical and clinical studies have indicated important additional cardiovascular and renal therapeutic benefits of ACE Is and ARBs. However, blockade of the RAAS with these agents is incomplete.
Conclusion: Therapeutic approaches that target more complete inhibition of the RAAS may offer additional clinical benefits for patients with cardiovascular and renal disorders. These approaches may include dual blockade using ACE Is and ARBs in combination, or new therapeutic modalities such as direct renin inhibition with aliskiren, recently approved for the treatment of hypertension.