Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(14):3795-3817. doi:10.7150/ijbs.53312 This issue

Research Paper

Comprehensive landscape of the renin-angiotensin system in Pan-cancer: a potential downstream mediated mechanism of SARS-CoV-2

Yuqing Cui#, Fengzhi Chen#, Jiayi Gao#, Mengxia Lei, Dandan Wang, Xiaoying Jin, Yan Guo, Liying Shan, Xuesong Chen

The Fourth Department of Medical Oncology, Harbin Medical University Cancer Hospital, Harbin 150040, China.
#These authors have contributed equally to this work.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.
Cui Y, Chen F, Gao J, Lei M, Wang D, Jin X, Guo Y, Shan L, Chen X. Comprehensive landscape of the renin-angiotensin system in Pan-cancer: a potential downstream mediated mechanism of SARS-CoV-2. Int J Biol Sci 2021; 17(14):3795-3817. doi:10.7150/ijbs.53312. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Background: SARS-CoV-2, the cause of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, utilizes the mechanism of binding to ACE2 (a crucial component of the renin-angiotensin system [RAS]), subsequently mediating a secondary imbalance of the RAS family and leading to severe injury to the host. However, very few studies have been conducted to reveal the mechanism behind the effect of SARS-CoV-2 on tumors.

Methods: Demographic data extracted from 33 cancer types and over 10,000 samples were employed to determine the comprehensive landscape of the RAS. Expression distribution, pretranscriptional and posttranscriptional regulation and posttranslational modifications (PTMs) as well as genomic alterations, DNA methylation and m6A modification were analyzed in both tissue and cell lines. The clinical phenotype, prognostic value and significance of the RAS during immune infiltration were identified.

Results: Low expression of AGTR1 was common in tumors compared to normal tissues, while very low expression of AGTR2 and MAS1 was detected in both tissues and cell lines. Differential expression patterns of ACE in ovarian serous cystadenocarcinoma (OV) and kidney renal clear cell carcinoma (KIRC) were correlated with ubiquitin modification involving E3 ligases. Genomic alterations of the RAS family were infrequent across TCGA pan-cancer program, and ACE had the highest alteration frequency compared with other members. Low expression of AGTR1 may result from hypermethylation in the promoter. Downregulation of RAS family was linked to higher clinical stage and worse survival (as measured by disease-specific survival [DSS], overall survival [OS] or progression-free interval [PFI]), especially for ACE2 and AGTR1 in KIRC. ACE-AGTR1, a classical axis of the RAS family related to immune infiltration, was positively correlated with M2-type macrophages, cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) and immune checkpoint genes in most cancers.

Conclusion: ACE, ACE2, AGT and AGTR1 were differentially expressed in 33 types of cancers. PTM of RAS family was found to rely on ubiquitination. ACE2 and AGTR1 might serve as independent prognostic factors for LGG and KIRC. SARS-CoV-2 might modify the tumor microenvironment by regulating the RAS family, thus affecting the biological processes of cancer.

Keywords: SARS-CoV-2, RAS family, Pan-cancer, Immune infiltration, ACE2