ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2) is a key component of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Yet, little is known about the clinical and biologic correlates of circulating ACE2 levels in humans. We assessed the clinical and proteomic correlates of plasma (soluble) ACE2 protein levels in human heart failure. We measured plasma ACE2 using a modified aptamer assay among PHFS (Penn Heart Failure Study) participants (n=2248). We performed an association study of ACE2 against ≈5000 other plasma proteins measured with the SomaScan platform. Plasma ACE2 was not associated with ACE inhibitor and angiotensin-receptor blocker use. Plasma ACE2 was associated with older age, male sex, diabetes mellitus, a lower estimated glomerular filtration rate, worse New York Heart Association class, a history of coronary artery bypass surgery, and higher pro-BNP (pro-B-type natriuretic peptide) levels. Plasma ACE2 exhibited associations with 1011 other plasma proteins. In pathway overrepresentation analyses, top canonical pathways associated with plasma ACE2 included clathrin-mediated endocytosis signaling, actin cytoskeleton signaling, mechanisms of viral exit from host cells, EIF2 (eukaryotic initiation factor 2) signaling, and the protein ubiquitination pathway. In conclusion, in humans with heart failure, plasma ACE2 is associated with various clinical factors known to be associated with severe coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), including older age, male sex, and diabetes mellitus, but is not associated with ACE inhibitor and angiotensin-receptor blocker use. Plasma ACE2 protein levels are prominently associated with multiple cellular pathways involved in cellular endocytosis, exocytosis, and intracellular protein trafficking. Whether these have a causal relationship with ACE2 or are relevant to novel coronavirus-2 infection remains to be assessed in future studies.
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2
- Heart failure
- Renin-angiotensin system
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Internal Medicine