Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), SARS-CoV-2 and the pathophysiology of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)

The Journal of Pathology
Arno R BourgonjeHarry van Goor


Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) has been established as the functional host receptor for severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the current devastating worldwide pandemic of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). ACE2 is abundantly expressed in a variety of cells residing in many different human organs. In human physiology, ACE2 is a pivotal counter-regulatory enzyme to ACE by the breakdown of angiotensin II, the central player in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) and the main substrate of ACE2. Many factors have been associated with both altered ACE2 expression and COVID-19 severity and progression, including age, sex, ethnicity, medication, and several co-morbidities, such as cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. Although ACE2 is widely distributed in various human tissues and many of its determinants have been well recognised, ACE2-expressing organs do not equally participate in COVID-19 pathophysiology, implying that other mechanisms are involved in orchestrating cellular infection resulting in tissue damage. Reports of pathologic findings in tissue specimens of COVID-19 patients are rapidly emerging and confirm the established role of ACE2 express...Continue Reading


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