Age-associated difference in circulating ACE2, the gateway for SARS-COV-2, in humans: results from the InCHIANTI study

Majd AlGhatrif, Toshiko Tanaka, Ann Zenobia Moore, Stefania Bandinelli, Edward G. Lakatta, Luigi Ferrucci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Levels of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2), the gateway for COVID-19 virus into the cells, have been implicated in worse COVID-19 outcomes associated with aging and cardiovascular disease (CVD). Data on age-associated differences in circulating ACE2 levels in humans and the role of CVD and medications is limited. We analyzed data from 967 participants of the InCHIANTI study, a community-dwelling cohort in the Chianti region, Italy. Relative abundance of ACE2 in plasma was assessed using a proteomics platform. CVD diagnoses, use of renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAAS) antagonists: ACEi, ARBs, and aldosterone antagonists, were ascertained. Multiple linear analyses were performed to examine the independent association of ACE2 with age, CVD, and RAAS antagonist use. Age was independently associated with lower log (ACE2) in persons aged ≥ 55 years (STD β = − 0.12, p = 0.0002). ACEi treatment was also independently associated with significantly lower ACE2 levels, and ACE2 was inversely associated with weight, and positively associated with peripheral artery disease (PAD) status. There was a trend toward higher circulating ACE2 levels in hypertensive individuals, but it did not reach statistical significance. In a stratified analysis, the association between log (ACE2) and log (IL-6) was more evidenced in participants with PAD. Circulating ACE2 levels demonstrate curvilinear association with age, with older individuals beyond the sixth decade age having lower levels. ACEi was associated with greater circulating ACE2 levels. Interestingly, ACE2 was elevated in PAD and positively associated with inflammatory markers, suggesting compensatory upregulation in the setting of chronic inflammation. Further studies are needed to comprehensively characterize RAAS components with aging and disease, and assess its prognostic role in predicting COVID-19 outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)619-627
Number of pages9
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2021


  • ACE2
  • Aging
  • COVID-19
  • Cardiovascular disease

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aging
  • veterinary (miscalleneous)
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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