ACE2 as a Therapeutic Target for COVID-19; its Role in Infectious Processes and Regulation by Modulators of the RAAS System

J Clin Med. 2020 Jul 3;9(7):E2096. doi: 10.3390/jcm9072096.


Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the recognized host cell receptor responsiblefor mediating infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). ACE2bound to tissue facilitates infectivity of SARS-CoV-2; thus, one could argue that decreasing ACE2tissue expression would be beneficial. However, ACE2 catalytic activity towards angiotensin I (AngI) and II (Ang II) mitigates deleterious effects associated with activation of the renin-angiotensinaldosteronesystem (RAAS) on several organs, including a pro-inflammatory status. At the tissuelevel, SARS-CoV-2 (a) binds to ACE2, leading to its internalization, and (b) favors ACE2 cleavage toform soluble ACE2: these actions result in decreased ACE2 tissue levels. Preserving tissue ACE2activity while preventing ACE2 shredding is expected to circumvent unrestrained inflammatoryresponse. Concerns have been raised around RAAS modulators and their effects on ACE2expression or catalytic activity. Various cellular and animal models report conflicting results invarious tissues. However, recent data from observational and meta-analysis studies in SARS-CoV-2-infected patients have concluded that RAAS modulators do not increase plasma ACE2 levels orsusceptibility to infection and are not associated with more severe diseases. This review presentsour current but evolving knowledge of the complex interplay between SARS-CoV-2 infection, ACE2levels, modulators of RAAS activity and the effects of RAAS modulators on ACE2 expression.

Keywords: ACE2; SARS-CoV-2; angiotensin II converting enzyme inhibitors; angiotensin II type 1 receptor blockers; pneumonia; renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system.

Publication types

  • Review