ACE2 and Microbiota: Emerging Targets for Cardiopulmonary Disease Therapy

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Abstract

The health of the cardiovascular and pulmonary systems is inextricably linked to the renin–angiotensin system (RAS). Physiologically speaking, a balance between the vasodeleterious (Angiotensin-converting enzyme [ACE]/Angiotensin II [Ang II]/Ang II type 1 receptor [AT1R]) and vasoprotective (Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 [ACE2]/Angiotensin-(1-7) [Ang-(1-7)]/Mas receptor [MasR]) components of the RAS is critical for cardiopulmonary homeostasis. Upregulation of the ACE/Ang II/AT1R axis shifts the system toward vasoconstriction, proliferation, hypertrophy, inflammation, and fibrosis, all factors that contribute to the development and progression of cardiopulmonary diseases. Conversely, stimulation of the vasoprotective ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/MasR axis produces a counter-regulatory response that promotes cardiovascular health. Current research is investigating novel strategies to augment actions of the vasoprotective RAS components, particularly ACE2, in order to treat various pathologies. Although multiple approaches to increase the activity of ACE2 have displayed beneficial effects against experimental disease models, the mechanisms behind its protective actions remain incompletely understood. Recent work demonstrating a non-catalytic role for ACE2 in amino acid transport in the gut has led us to speculate that the therapeutic effects of ACE2 can be mediated, in part, by its actions on the gastrointestinal tract and/or gut microbiome. This is consistent with emerging data which suggest that dysbiosis of the gut and lung microbiomes is associated with cardiopulmonary disease. This review highlights new developments in the protective actions of ACE2 against cardiopulmonary disorders, discusses innovative approaches to targeting ACE2 for therapy, and explores an evolving role for gut and lung microbiota in cardiopulmonary health.

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