Angiotensin II is an octapeptide that is a potent vasopressor and a powerful stimulus for production and release of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. Angiotensin II is formed from angiotensin I, which is converted into angiotensin II through the removal of two C-terminal residues by the enzyme angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE, or kinase), which is found predominantly in the capillaries of the lung. ACE is actually found all over the body, but has its highest density in the lung due to the high density of capillary beds there. Angiotensin II acts as an endocrine, autocrine/paracrine, and intracrine hormone.
ACE is a target for inactivation by ACE inhibitor drugs, which decrease the rate of angiotensin II production. Angiotensin II increases blood pressure by stimulating the Gq protein in vascular smooth muscle cells (which in turn activates contraction by an IP3-dependent mechanism). ACE inhibitor drugs are major drugs against hypertension.
Other cleavage products of ACE, 7 or 9 amino acids long, are also known; they have differential affinity for angiotensin receptors, although their exact role is still unclear. The action of angiotensin II itself is targeted by angiotensin II receptor antagonists, which directly block angiotensin II AT1 receptors.
Angiotensin II is degraded to angiotensin III by angiotensinases that are located in red blood cells and the vascular beds of most tissues. It has a half-life in circulation of around 30 seconds, whereas, in tissue, it may be as long as 15–30 minutes.