Working Paper Review Version 1 This version is not peer-reviewed

Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System: Double-Edged Sword in COVID-19 Infection

Version 1 : Received: 19 March 2020 / Approved: 25 March 2020 / Online: 25 March 2020 (03:56:27 CET)

How to cite: Burchfield, J. Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System: Double-Edged Sword in COVID-19 Infection. Preprints 2020, 2020030365 Burchfield, J. Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System: Double-Edged Sword in COVID-19 Infection. Preprints 2020, 2020030365


The role of the Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System (RAAS) in Corona Virus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) infection has become a controversial topic of discussion. RAAS inhibitors, such as Angiotensin Converting Enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs), which are used to treat cardiovascular diseases, have been implicated in potentially increasing cell surface levels of ACE2. ACE2 is the host receptor for COVID-19 that was discovered in Wuhan, China in December 2019. Since December, COVID-19 has transmitted rapidly across the world and has become a global pandemic. COVID-19 is similar to the Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) with the first case reported in Saudi Arabia in September 2012. COVID-19, also known as severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), is also similar to SARS-CoV, which first infected humans in the Guangdong province of southern China in 2002, and caused an epidemic between November 2002 and July 2003. Both SARS-CoV and COVID-19 use ACE2 to enter host cells. ACE2 is primarily expressed in the mouth, lung, heart, esophagus, kidney, bladder, and intestines, and is a component of RAAS, which serves to maintain vascular tone and blood volume. Inhibition or activation of other components of RAAS has been shown to directly increase or decrease the expression and/or activity of ACE2. Furthermore, RAAS-targeting therapeutics, such as ACE inhibitors and ARBs, have also been shown to regulate the expression and/or activity of ACE2, albeit in animal models. Although these changes in ACE2 have been demonstrated only in animal models, there is no evidence that administration of RAAS-targeting therapeutics to humans for the treatment of hypertension, diabetes, and other cardiovascular diseases (e.g., myocardial infarction and heart failure) causes changes in ACE2 expression. Nor is there clinical evidence that RAAS-targeting therapeutics augment COVID-19 infection, morbidity, or mortality. However, clinical evidence does suggest that ACE2 expression may protect against respiratory distress caused by a variety of noxious agents. This review attempts to provide a balanced overview of the potential role of RAAS in regulating ACE2, and the role of ACE2 during COVID-19 infection. Evidence is provided to show that the expression of ACE2 may mediate both positive and negative outcomes, depending on the timing of ACE2 expression.


COVID-19; SARS-CoV; SARS-CoV-2; Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2; renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system



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