Metabolic impact of weight loss induced reduction of adipose ACE-2 - Potential implication in COVID-19 infections?
Metabolism: clinical and experimental. 2020;113:154401
Plain language summary
Obesity is now recognised as a risk factor for increased severity of Covid-19 infections. ACE-2 is a protein that has many functions but also allows Covid-19 into cells and is particularly evident in body tissues, which store fat. It is therefore possible that Covid-19 will target fat-storing tissues in the body. This 12-month randomised control weight-loss intervention study of 143 obese individuals aimed to determine ACE-2 expression and whether it could be modified by weight loss. The results showed that ACE-2 was only present in fat storing tissue and not muscle tissue. Interestingly individuals with pre-diabetes or diabetes had the lowest levels of ACE-2. Weight loss resulted in reduced ACE-2 in fat storing tissue, which resulted in an improvement in markers for diabetes. It was concluded that reduction of ACE-2 in fat storing tissues as a result of weight loss can improve markers for diabetes and could impact the severity of Covid-19 infection. Healthcare professionals could use this study to understand how weight loss in patients with obesity could decrease their risk of severe Covid-19 infection.
BACKGROUND & AIMS Angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE)-2 is a modulator of adipose tissue metabolism. However, human data of adipose ACE-2 is rarely available. Considering that, ACE-2 is believed to be the receptor responsible for cell entry of SARS-CoV-2, a better understanding of its regulation is desirable. We therefore characterized the modulation of subcutaneous adipose ACE-2 mRNA expression during weight loss and the impact of ACE-2 expression on weight loss induced short- and long-term improvements of glucose metabolism. METHODS 143 subjects (age > 18; BMI ≥ 27 kg/m2) were analyzed before and after a standardized 12-week dietary weight reduction program. Afterwards subjects were randomized to a 12-month lifestyle intervention or a control group (Maintain-Adults trial). Insulin sensitivity (IS) was estimated by HOMA-IR (as an estimate of liver IS) and ISIClamp (as an estimate of skeletal muscle IS). ACE-2 mRNA expression (ACE-2AT) was measured in subcutaneous adipose tissue before and after weight loss. RESULTS ACE-2AT was not affected by obesity, but was reduced in insulin resistant subjects. Weight loss resulted in a decline of ACE-2AT (29.0 (20.0-47.9) vs. 21.0 (13.0-31.0); p = 1.6 ∗ 10-7). A smaller reduction of ACE-2 AT (ΔACE-2AT) was associated with a larger improvement of ISIClamp (p = 0.013) during weight reduction over 3 months, but not with the extend of weight loss. The degree of changes in insulin resistance were preserved until month 12 and was also predicted by the weight loss induced degree of ΔACE-2AT (p = 0.011). CONCLUSIONS Our data indicate that subcutaneous adipose ACE-2 expression correlates with insulin sensitivity. Weight loss induced decline of subcutaneous adipose ACE-2 expression might affect short- and long-term improvement of myocellular insulin sensitivity, which might be also relevant in the context of ACE-2 downregulation by SARS-CoV-2. TRIAL REGISTRATION ClinicalTrials.gov number: NCT00850629, https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT00850629, date of registration: February 25, 2009.