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Summary

Background

The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) is a homeostatic pathway widely known to regulate cardiovascular and renal physiology; however, little is known about its influence in gastrointestinal tissues.

Aim

To elicit the anatomical distribution and physiological significance of the components of the RAS in the gastrointestinal tract.

Methods

An extensive online literature review including Pubmed and Medline.

Results

There is evidence for RAS involvement in gastrointestinal physiology and pathophysiology, with all the components required for autonomous regulation identified throughout the gastrointestinal tract. The RAS is implicated in the regulation of glucose, amino acid, fluid and electrolyte absorption and secretion, motility, inflammation, blood flow and possibly malignant disease within the gastrointestinal tract. Animal studies investigating the effects of RAS blockade in a range of conditions including inflammatory bowel disease, functional gut disorders, gastrointestinal malignancy and even intestinal ischaemia have been encouraging to date. Given the ready availability of drugs that modify the RAS and their excellent safety profile, an opportunity exists for investigation of their possible therapeutic role in a variety of human gastrointestinal diseases.

Conclusions

The gastrointestinal renin-angiotensin system appears to be intricately involved in a number of physiological processes, and provides a possible target for novel investigative and therapeutic approaches.