Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 and COVID-19 in cardiorenal diseases

Clin Sci (Lond). 2021 Jan 15;135(1):1-17. doi: 10.1042/CS20200482.


The rapid spread of the novel coronavirus, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), has brought into focus the key role of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), which serves as a cell surface receptor required for the virus to enter cells. SARS-CoV-2 can decrease cell surface ACE2 directly by internalization of ACE2 bound to the virus and indirectly by increased ADAM17 (a disintegrin and metalloproteinase 17)-mediated shedding of ACE2. ACE2 is widely expressed in the heart, lungs, vasculature, kidney and the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, where it counteracts the deleterious effects of angiotensin II (AngII) by catalyzing the conversion of AngII into the vasodilator peptide angiotensin-(1-7) (Ang-(1-7)). The down-regulation of ACE2 by SARS-CoV-2 can be detrimental to the cardiovascular system and kidneys. Further, decreased ACE2 can cause gut dysbiosis, inflammation and potentially worsen the systemic inflammatory response and coagulopathy associated with SARS-CoV-2. This review aims to elucidate the crucial role of ACE2 both as a regulator of the renin-angiotensin system and a receptor for SARS-CoV-2 as well as the implications for Coronavirus disease 19 and its associated cardiovascular and renal complications.

Keywords: ACE2; COVID-19; Heart Failure; Hypertension; Kidney Diseases; SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin II / metabolism
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / genetics
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • COVID-19 / enzymology*
  • COVID-19 / genetics
  • COVID-19 / metabolism
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Heart Diseases / enzymology*
  • Heart Diseases / genetics
  • Heart Diseases / metabolism
  • Heart Diseases / virology
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / enzymology*
  • Kidney Diseases / genetics
  • Kidney Diseases / metabolism
  • Kidney Diseases / virology
  • Receptors, Virus / genetics
  • Receptors, Virus / metabolism
  • Renin-Angiotensin System
  • SARS-CoV-2 / physiology


  • Receptors, Virus
  • Angiotensin II
  • Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2