Renin is the rate-limiting enzyme in the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system (RAS) which controls blood pressure and volume. The biological function of renin is to cleave the N-terminus of angiotensinogen releasing the decapeptide, angiotensin I (ANGI). Subsequently, angiotensin I is further processed by the angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) to produce angiotensin II (ANGII). The RAS cascade is a major target for the clinical management of hypertension. Current clinical treatments include angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEi) and ANGII receptor blockers (ARBs). As the rate-limiting enzyme in ANGII production, renin inhibitors have been pursued as an additional class of anti-hypertensives. Clinical studies conducted with renin inhibitors have shown them to be as effective as ACE inhibitors in lowering blood pressure. Most importantly, inhibitors of renin may have a number of potential advantages over ACEi and ARBs. Renin is specific for angiotensinogen and will not carry the ancillary pharmacology associated with ACEi or ARBs. To date, no renin inhibitors have made it to market. The development of these inhibitors has been hindered by poor bioavailability and complex synthesis. However, despite the pharmacokinetic challenges of designing renin inhibitors, the enzyme remains a promising target for the development of novel treatments for hypertension. This review will consist of an overview of renin biology, the pharmacology of renin and RAS and focus in on renin as a target for blood pressure regulation. We also cover the evaluation of renin inhibitors in animal models and clinical studies. Presently a number of new generation inhibitors of renin are in development with at least one in the clinic and these will be discussed. Finally we will discuss what might distinguish renin inhibitors from current therapeutic options and discuss other therapeutic indications renin inhibitors might have.
Keywords: Renin, Hypertension, angiotensinogen, RAS, ANGI, ANGII, ARBs, ACEi, Protease