A hypothesis for pathobiology and treatment of COVID-19: The centrality of ACE1/ACE2 imbalance

Br J Pharmacol. 2020 Apr 24. doi: 10.1111/bph.15082. Online ahead of print.


Angiotensin Converting Enzyme2 is the cell surface binding site for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes COVID-19. We propose that an imbalance in the action of ACE1- and ACE2-derived peptides, thereby enhancing angiotensin II (Ang II) signalling is primary driver of COVID-19 pathobiology. ACE1/ACE2 imbalance occurs due to the binding of SARS-CoV-2 to ACE2, reducing ACE2-mediated conversion of Ang II to Ang peptides that counteract pathophysiological effects of ACE1-generated ANG II. This hypothesis suggests several approaches to treat COVID-19 by restoring ACE1/ACE2 balance: (a) AT receptor antagonists; (b) ACE1 inhibitors (ACEIs); (iii) agonists of receptors activated by ACE2-derived peptides (e.g. Ang (1-7), which activates MAS1); (d) recombinant human ACE2 or ACE2 peptides as decoys for the virus. Reducing ACE1/ACE2 imbalance is predicted to blunt COVID-19-associated morbidity and mortality, especially in vulnerable patients. Importantly, approved AT antagonists and ACEIs can be rapidly repurposed to test their efficacy in treating COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Review