In vitro and in vivo identification of clinically approved drugs that modify ACE2 expression

Sanju Sinha, Kuoyuan Cheng, Alejandro A. Schäffer, Kenneth Aldape, Eyal Schiff, Eytan Ruppin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 has is a global health challenge. Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is the host receptor for SARS-CoV-2 entry. Recent studies have suggested that patients with hypertension and diabetes treated with ACE inhibitors (ACEIs) or angiotensin receptor blockers have a higher risk of COVID-19 infection as these drugs could upregulate ACE2, motivating the study of ACE2 modulation by drugs in current clinical use. Here, we mined published datasets to determine the effects of hundreds of clinically approved drugs on ACE2 expression. We find that ACEIs are enriched for ACE2-upregulating drugs, while antineoplastic agents are enriched for ACE2-downregulating drugs. Vorinostat and isotretinoin are the top ACE2 up/downregulators, respectively, in cell lines. Dexamethasone, a corticosteroid used in treating severe acute respiratory syndrome and COVID-19, significantly upregulates ACE2 both in vitro and in vivo. Further top ACE2 regulators in vivo or in primary cells include erlotinib and bleomycin in the lung and vancomycin, cisplatin, and probenecid in the kidney. Our study provides leads for future work studying ACE2 expression modulators.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere9628
JournalMolecular Systems Biology
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1 Jul 2020


  • angiotensin I-converting enzyme 2
  • coronavirus disease 2019
  • dexamethasone
  • drug-modifying ACE2 expression
  • severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2


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