Link between the renin-angiotensin system and insulin resistance: implications for cardiovascular disease

Vasc Med. 2012 Oct;17(5):330-41. doi: 10.1177/1358863X12450094. Epub 2012 Jul 19.


The incidence of metabolic syndrome is rapidly increasing in the United States and worldwide. The metabolic syndrome is a complex metabolic and vascular disorder that is associated with inappropriate activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) in the cardiovascular (CV) system and increased CV morbidity and mortality. Insulin activation of the phosphatidylinositol-3-kinase (PI3K) pathway promotes nitric oxide (NO) production in the endothelium and glucose uptake in insulin-sensitive tissues. Angiotensin (Ang) II inhibits insulin-mediated PI3K pathway activation, thereby impairing endothelial NO production and Glut-4 translocation in insulin-sensitive tissues, which results in vascular and systemic insulin resistance, respectively. On the other hand, Ang II enhances insulin-mediated activation of the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway, which leads to vasoconstriction and pathologic vascular cellular growth. Therefore, the interaction of Ang II with insulin signaling is fully operative not only in insulin-sensitive tissues but also in CV tissues, thereby linking insulin resistance and CV disease. This notion is further supported by an increasing number of experimental and clinical studies indicating that pharmacological blockade of RAAS improves insulin sensitivity and endothelial function, as well as reduces the incidence of new-onset diabetes in high-risk patients with CV disease. This article reviews experimental and clinical data elucidating the physiological and pathophysiological role of the interaction between insulin and RAAS in the development of insulin resistance as well as CV disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Glucose / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cardiovascular System / metabolism
  • Cardiovascular System / physiopathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / blood
  • Hypertension / etiology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Insulin / blood*
  • Insulin Resistance*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / complications*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / physiopathology
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / complications
  • Obesity / physiopathology
  • Prognosis
  • Renin-Angiotensin System*
  • Risk Factors
  • Signal Transduction
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary / adverse effects


  • Blood Glucose
  • Insulin
  • Sodium Chloride, Dietary