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1.  The effect of microvascular pattern alterations on network resistance in spontaneously hypertensive rats 
Structural microvascular rarefaction, defined by a loss of vessels, is a common characteristic of hypertension and has been associated with elevated microvascular resistance. However, determining the causal relationship between microvascular network structure and resistance requires a consideration of all pattern changes throughout a network. The objectives of this study were to determine whether microvascular rarefaction is associated with other network pattern alterations and to evaluate whether pattern alterations in hypertension necessarily contribute to increased microvascular resistance. Mesenteric tissues from age-matched (15–16 weeks) male spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats were harvested and immunolabeled for PECAM. SHR networks displayed a decreased microvascular area, arteriolar-venular (AV) length, number of AV branches, and number of capillary segments. In addition, SHR networks displayed increased AV connections per network compared to WKY networks. Based on network geometries, resistance per network was calculated using a computational model. For simulations with equal vessel diameter and with relative diameters based on reported intravital measurements, SHR microvascular network resistance was not elevated compared to the WKY level. Our results suggest that microvascular pattern alterations associated with hypertension are more complex than vessel loss, and that these combined alterations do not necessarily lead to elevated resistance.
PMCID: PMC3608097  PMID: 22562369
Microcirculation; Rarefaction; Hypertension; Mesentery; Resistance; SHR
Elevated blood pressure during hypertension has been associated with microvascular rarefaction defined by loss of microvessels. However, whether rarefaction is a result of impaired angiogenesis remains unclear. The objective of this study was to compare angiogenesis across the time course of mesenteric microvascular network remodeling in adult spontaneously hypertensive versus normotensive rats. Angiogenic responses in 15–16-week-old SHR and Wistar rats at 0, 3, 5, 10 or 25 days post 20 minute exteriorization of the mesentery were quantified. Consistent with the phenomenon of rarefaction, vascularized area in unstimulated SHR was decreased compared to Wistar. By 25 days, SHR vascular area had increased to the Wistar level and vascular length density and capillary sprouting were comparable. At 3 and 5 days, SHR and Wistar tissues displayed an increase in the capillary sprouting and vascular density relative to their unstimulated controls. At 10 days, capillary sprouting in the SHR remained elevated. The percent change in vascular density was elevated in the SHR compared to the Wistar group at 3 and 5 days and by 25 days the rate of change was more negative. Our results suggest that SHR networks undergo an increased rate of growth followed by an increased rate of pruning.
PMCID: PMC3176994  PMID: 21627712
Hypertension; Angiogenesis; Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat; Microcirculation; Mesentery
3.  Matrix Metalloproteinase Activity Causes VEGFR-2 Cleavage and Microvascular Rarefaction in Rat Mesentery 
A complication of the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) is microvascular rarefaction, defined by the loss of microvessels. However, the molecular mechanisms involved in this process remain incompletely identified. Recent work in our laboratory suggests that matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) may play a role by cleavage of the vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR-2). In order to further delineate the role for MMPs in microvascular rarefaction, the objective of the current study was to examine the relationship in the same tissue between MMP activity, VEGFR-2 cleavage and rarefaction. Using an in-vivo microzymographic technique we show significantly enhanced levels of MMP-1, -1/-9, -7, and -8 activities, but not MMP-2 and-3 activities, along mesenteric microvessels of the SHR compared to its normotensive control, Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rat. Based on immunohistochemical methods, the SHR exhibited a decreased labeling of the extracellular, but not the intracellular, domain of VEGFR-2 along mesenteric microvessels. Chronic MMP inhibition served to attenuate VEGFR-2 cleavage and microvascular network rarefaction in the SHR mesentery. These results spatially link MMP-induced VEGFR-2 cleavage and rarefaction in the mesentery of the SHR and thus support the hypothesis that MMPs serve as regulators of microvascular dysfunction in hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3081385  PMID: 21418372
Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat; Wister Kyoto rat; capillary; arteriole; venule; microzymography; matrix metalloproteinase inhibition
4.  Molecular basis for impaired collateral artery growth in the spontaneously hypertensive rat: insight from microarray analysis 
Physiological Reports  2013;1(2):e0005.
Analysis of global gene expression in mesenteric control and collateral arteries was used to investigate potential molecules, pathways, and mechanisms responsible for impaired collateral growth in the Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat (SHR). A fundamental difference was observed in overall gene expression pattern in SHR versus Wistar Kyoto (WKY) collaterals; only 6% of genes altered in collaterals were similar between rat strains. Ingenuity® Pathway Analysis (IPA) identified major differences between WKY and SHR in networks and biological functions related to cell growth and proliferation and gene expression. In SHR control arteries, several mechano-sensitive and redox-dependent transcription regulators were downregulated including JUN (−5.2×, P = 0.02), EGR1 (−4.1×, P = 0.01), and NFĸB1 (−1.95×, P = 0.04). Predicted binding sites for NFĸB and AP-1 were present in genes altered in WKY but not SHR collaterals. Immunostaining showed increased NFĸB nuclear translocation in collateral arteries of WKY and apocynin-treated SHR, but not in untreated SHR. siRNA for the p65 subunit suppressed collateral growth in WKY, confirming a functional role of NFkB. Canonical pathways identified by IPA in WKY but not SHR included nitric oxide and renin–angiotensin system signaling. The angiotensin type 1 receptor (AGTR1) exhibited upregulation in WKY collaterals, but downregulation in SHR; pharmacological blockade of AGTR1 with losartan prevented collateral luminal expansion in WKY. Together, these results suggest that collateral growth impairment results from an abnormality in a fundamental regulatory mechanism that occurs at a level between signal transduction and gene transcription and implicate redox-dependent modulation of mechano-sensitive transcription factors such as NFĸB as a potential mechanism.
PMCID: PMC3831906  PMID: 24303120
Arteriogenesis; collateral gene expression; microarray analysis; peripheral vascular disease
5.  Changes in mitochondrial functionality and calcium uptake in hypertensive rats as a function of age 
Mitochondrion  2008;8(3):262-272.
We studied whether mitochondrial functions and Ca2+ metabolism were altered in Wistar Kyoto normotensive (WKY) and spontaneous hypertensive rats (SHR). Ca2+ uptake was decreased in SHR compared to WKY rats. Accumulation of Ca2+ was more efficient in WKY than in SHR rats. mΔΨ was lower in SHR compared to WKY rats. Basal complex IV activity was higher in SHR than WKY rats, whereas basal l-citrulline production, an indicator of nitric oxide synthesis, was decreased in SHR and dependent on Ca2+ concentration (p < 0.05). Impact of Ca2+ was counteracted by EGTA. These data show an age-dependent decreased mitochondrial functions in brain mitochondria during hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2922397  PMID: 18541459
Brain mitochondria; Calcium uptake; Nitric oxide; Cytochrome c oxidase; Hypertension; Aging
6.  Antihypertensive Treatment Differentially Affects Vascular Sphingolipid Biology in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(12):e29222.
We have previously shown that essential hypertension in humans and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), is associated with increased levels of ceramide and marked alterations in sphingolipid biology. Pharmacological elevation of ceramide in isolated carotid arteries of SHR leads to vasoconstriction via a calcium-independent phospholipase A2, cyclooxygenase-1 and thromboxane synthase-dependent release of thromboxane A2. This phenomenon is almost absent in vessels from normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats. Here we investigated whether lowering of blood pressure can reverse elevated ceramide levels and reduce ceramide-mediated contractions in SHR.
Methods and Findings
For this purpose SHR were treated for 4 weeks with the angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist losartan or the vasodilator hydralazine. Both drugs decreased blood pressure equally (SBP untreated SHR: 191±7 mmHg, losartan: 125±5 mmHg and hydralazine: 113±14 mmHg). The blood pressure lowering was associated with a 20–25% reduction in vascular ceramide levels and improved endothelial function of isolated carotid arteries in both groups. Interestingly, losartan, but not hydralazine treatment, markedly reduced sphingomyelinase-induced contractions. While both drugs lowered cyclooxygenase-1 expression, only losartan and not hydralazine, reduced the endothelial expression of calcium-independent phospholipase A2. The latter finding may explain the effect of losartan treatment on sphingomyelinase-induced vascular contraction.
In summary, this study corroborates the importance of sphingolipid biology in blood pressure control and specifically shows that blood pressure lowering reduces vascular ceramide levels in SHR and that losartan treatment, but not blood pressure lowering per se, reduces ceramide-mediated arterial contractions.
PMCID: PMC3240660  PMID: 22195025
7.  Hypertension Is Associated with Marked Alterations in Sphingolipid Biology: A Potential Role for Ceramide 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(7):e21817.
Hypertension is, amongst others, characterized by endothelial dysfunction and vascular remodeling. As sphingolipids have been implicated in both the regulation of vascular contractility and growth, we investigated whether sphingolipid biology is altered in hypertension and whether this is reflected in altered vascular function.
Methods and Findings
In isolated carotid arteries from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats, shifting the ceramide/S1P ratio towards ceramide dominance by administration of a sphingosine kinase inhibitor (dimethylsphingosine) or exogenous application of sphingomyelinase, induced marked endothelium-dependent contractions in SHR vessels (DMS: 1.4±0.4 and SMase: 2.1±0.1 mN/mm; n = 10), that were virtually absent in WKY vessels (DMS: 0.0±0.0 and SMase: 0.6±0.1 mN/mm; n = 9, p<0.05). Imaging mass spectrometry and immunohistochemistry indicated that these contractions were most likely mediated by ceramide and dependent on iPLA2, cyclooxygenase-1 and thromboxane synthase. Expression levels of these enzymes were higher in SHR vessels. In concurrence, infusion of dimethylsphingosine caused a marked rise in blood pressure in anesthetized SHR (42±4%; n = 7), but not in WKY (−12±10%; n = 6). Lipidomics analysis by mass spectrometry, revealed elevated levels of ceramide in arterial tissue of SHR compared to WKY (691±42 vs. 419±27 pmol, n = 3–5 respectively, p<0.05). These pronounced alterations in SHR sphingolipid biology are also reflected in increased plasma ceramide levels (513±19 pmol WKY vs. 645±25 pmol SHR, n = 6–12, p<0.05). Interestingly, we observed similar increases in ceramide levels (correlating with hypertension grade) in plasma from humans with essential hypertension (185±8 pmol vs. 252±23 pmol; n = 18 normotensive vs. n = 19 hypertensive patients, p<0.05).
Hypertension is associated with marked alterations in vascular sphingolipid biology such as elevated ceramide levels and signaling, that contribute to increased vascular tone.
PMCID: PMC3139577  PMID: 21818267
8.  Electroacupuncture Delays Hypertension Development through Enhancing NO/NOS Activity in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats 
Using spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), this study investigated whether electroacupuncture (EA) could reduce early stage hypertension by examining nitric oxide (NO) levels in plasma and nitric oxide synthase (NOS) levels in the mesenteric resistance artery. EA was applied to the acupuncture point Governor Vessel 20 (GV20) or to a non-acupuncture point in the tail twice weekly for 3 weeks under anesthesia. In conscious SHR and normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats, blood pressure was determined the day after EA treatment by the tail-cuff method. We measured plasma NO concentration, and evaluated endothelial NO syntheses (eNOS) and neuronal NOS (nNOS) protein expression in the mesenteric artery. Systolic blood pressure (SBP) and diastolic blood pressure (DBP) were lower after 3 weeks of GV20 treatment than EA at non-acupuncture point and no treatment control in SHR. nNOS expression by EA was significantly different between both WKY and no treatment SHR control, and EA at GV20 in SHR. eNOS expression was significantly high in EA at GV 20 compared with no treatment control. In conclusion, EA could attenuate the blood pressure elevation of SHR, along with enhancing NO/NOS activity in the mesenteric artery in SHR.
PMCID: PMC3094701  PMID: 18955367
9.  Enhanced Matrix Metalloproteinase Activity in the Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat: VEGFR-2 Cleavage, Endothelial Apoptosis, and Capillary Rarefaction 
Journal of Vascular Research  2010;47(5):423-431.
Besides an elevated blood pressure, the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) has multiple microvascular complications including endothelial apoptosis with capillary rarefaction. The SHR also has elevated levels of proteolytic (e.g. matrix metalloproteinase, MMP) activity and apoptosis in microvascular cells compared to its normotensive control, but the specific enzymes involved and the molecular mechanism for apoptosis are unknown. We hypothesize that selected MMPs cleave the extracellular domain of vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 (VEGFR-2), which in turn causes endothelial apoptosis and capillary rarefaction. Zymographic analysis shows that gelatinase (MMP-2 and MMP-9) and matrilysin (MMP-7) activities are significantly enhanced in SHR plasma. The SHR has lower levels of the extracellular domains of VEGFR-2 in cardiac microvessels. Furthermore, application of plasma from the SHR, or purified MMP-9 and MMP-7 to naïve cells causes cleavage of the extracellular domain of VEGFR-2. The receptor cleavage was blocked by broad-acting MMP inhibitors (GM6001 1 μM, EDTA 10 mM, or doxycycline 11.3 μM). Chronic MMP inhibition (doxycycline, 5.4 mg/kg/day, 24 weeks) attenuated VEGFR-2 cleavage, endothelial apoptosis, and capillary rarefaction in the SHR. These results suggest elevated plasma MMP activities may cleave VEGFR-2, resulting in endothelial apoptosis and capillary rarefaction in the SHR.
PMCID: PMC2968763  PMID: 20145415
Capillary density; Hypertension; Matrix metalloproteinases; Vascular endothelial growth factor
10.  Alterations in vasomotor systems and mechanics of resistance-sized mesenteric arteries from SHR and WKY male rats following in vivo testosterone manipulation 
Testosterone (T) and the sympathetic nervous system each contribute to the pathology of hypertension. Altered blood vessel reactivity is also associated with the pathology of high blood pressure. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of T manipulation in the regulation of resistance-sized blood vessel reactivity.
Adult spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) and Wistar Kyoto (WKY) male rats at 8 weeks of age were used. The rats were divided into groups consisting of gonadally intact controls (CONT), castrate with sham implant (CAST) and castrate with T implant (CAST + T) (n = 6 to 12 per group). Following a short-term period of T treatment (approximately 4 weeks), plasma norepinephrine (NE) and plasma T were assessed by performing high-performance liquid chromatography and RIA, respectively. Resistance-sized mesenteric artery reactivity was assessed on a pressurized arteriograph for myogenic reactivity (MYO), phenylephrine (PE) responsiveness and passive structural mechanics.
SHR and WKY males exhibited similar physiological trends in T manipulation, with castration significantly lowering plasma T and NE and T replacement significantly increasing plasma T and NE. T manipulation in general resulted in significant alterations in MYO of second-order mesenteric arteries, with T replacement decreasing MYO in SHR (P < 0.05) compared to CONT, T replacement increasing MYO, and CAST decreasing MYO in WKY rats (P < 0.001) compared to CONT rats. Additionally, PE-induced constriction was significantly altered in both strains following T treatment, with the effective concentration of PE to constrict the vessel to 50% of the total diameter significantly increased in the CAST + T SHR compared to CONT (P < 0.05). Comparisons of passive structural mechanics between SHR and WKY treatment groups indicated in SHR a significantly increased wall-to-lumen ratio and decreased circumferential wall stress compared to WKY treatment groups.
These data suggest that T and NE are involved in a complex interaction with both myogenic reactivity and structural alterations of resistance-sized blood vessels and that these factors likely contribute to the development and maintenance of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3264497  PMID: 22214247
testosterone; norepinephrine; blood vessel; myogenic
11.  Medial Temporal Lobe Functioning and Structure in the Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat: Comparison with Wistar-Kyoto and Wistar-Kyoto Hypertensive Strains 
Hippocampus  2010;20(6):787-797.
The Spontaneously Hypertensive Rat (SHR) is used as an animal model of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). It displays deficits in frontostriatal functioning, but it is unclear if medial temporal lobe functioning and structure are affected. We used behavioral tasks that evaluate functioning of the amygdala and hippocampus to compare male SHR to male rats from two inbred comparator strains, the normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) and the hypertensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKHT) rat (n=8/strain). The three strains showed similar levels of amygdala-related stimulus-reward learning during conditioned cue preference testing. In the ambiguous T-maze task, which dissociates between spatial and habit learning, significantly more WKHT than SHR or WKY used a response (indicative of habit learning) vs. a place (indicative of spatial learning) strategy during an early probe test on day 8. During a later probe test on day 24, WKY progressed significantly from using a place strategy to a response strategy. Throughout all probe tests, a place strategy was used predominately by SHR and a response strategy by WKHT. Thus, SHR exhibited deficits in dorsal striatum-related habit learning whereas WKHT exhibited deficits in hippocampus-related spatial learning. Following behavioral testing, Fluid Attenuated Inversion Recovery (FLAIR) magnetic resonance imaging scans were conducted in subgroups of rats from each strain (n=4/strain). FLAIR imaging detected bilateral hippocampal hyperintensities in three of four WKHT and unilateral hippocampal atrophy in one of four SHR. The association between response strategy use during the initial probe test to forage for food in the ambiguous T-maze task and bilateral hippocampal abnormalities was significant. Collectively, while medial temporal lobe functioning appears to be normal in SHR exhibiting an ADHD-like phenotype, WKHT rats display both hippocampal functioning deficits and signs of bilateral hippocampal cell loss. The latter characteristics might be used to develop a new animal model of age-or disease-related decline in hippocampal functioning.
PMCID: PMC2878848  PMID: 19623608
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; Habit Learning; Magnetic Resonance Imaging; Spatial Learning; Stimulus-Reward Learning
12.  Chemoreceptor hypersensitivity, sympathetic excitation and overexpression of ASIC and TASK channels prior to hypertension in SHR 
Circulation research  2009;106(3):536-545.
increased sympathetic nerve activity has been linked to the pathogenesis of hypertension in humans and animal models. Enhanced peripheral chemoreceptor sensitivity which increases sympathetic nerve activity has been observed in established hypertension but has not been identified as a possible mechanism for initiating an increase in SNA prior to the onset of hypertension.
we tested this hypothesis by measuring the pH sensitivity of isolated carotid body glomus cells from young spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) prior to the onset of hypertension and their control normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats.
Methods and Results
we found a significant increase in the depolarizing effect of low pH in SHR versus WKY glomus cells which was caused by overexpression of two acid-sensing non-voltage gated channels. One is the amiloride-sensitive acid-sensing sodium channel (ASIC3) which is activated by low pH and the other is the two-pore domain acid sensing K+ channel (TASK1) which is inhibited by low pH and blocked by quinidine. Moreover we found that the increase in sympathetic nerve activity in response to stimulation of chemoreceptors with sodium cyanide was markedly enhanced in the still normotensive young SHR compared to control WKY rats.
our results establish a novel molecular basis for increased chemotransduction that contributes to excessive sympathetic activity prior to the onset of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC2846115  PMID: 20019330
carotid body glomus cells; pH sensitivity; ion channels; sympathetic nerve activity; prehypertensive SHR
13.  Proteolytic Cleavage of the Red Blood Cell Glycocalyx in a Genetic Form of Hypertension 
Recent evidence suggests that the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR) has an elevated level of proteases, including matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), involved in cell membrane receptor cleavage. We hypothesize that SHR red blood cells (RBCs) may be subject to an enhanced glycocalyx cleavage compared to the RBCs of the normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. By direct observation of RBC rouleaux, we found no significant difference in RBC aggregation for unseparated SHR and WKY RBCs. However, lighter SHR RBCs have a greater tendency to aggregate than WKY RBCs when separated by centrifugation. When SHR plasma was mixed with WKY RBCs, SHR plasma proteases cleaved the glycocalyx of WKY RBCs, a process that can be blocked by MMP inhibition. When treated with MMPs, WKY RBCs showed strong aggregation in dextran but not in fibrinogen, indicating that RBC membrane glycoproteins from the inner core of the glycocalyx were cleaved and that dextran was able to bind to the lipid portion of the RBC membrane. In contrast, treatment with amylases produced fibrinogen-induced aggregation with fibrinogen binding to the protein core. MMP cleavage of RBC glycocalyx reduces RBC adhesion to macrophages as a mechanism to remove old RBCs from the circulation.
PMCID: PMC3711591  PMID: 23864910
Spontaneously hypertensive rat; matrix metalloproteinases; red blood cell aggregation; glycocalyx cleavage; dextran; fibrinogen
14.  Specific growth stimulation of cultured smooth muscle cells from spontaneously hypertensive rats by platelet-derived growth factor A-chain homodimer. 
Cell Regulation  1990;1(11):821-831.
Cultured vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC)1 from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) possess specific cell surface receptors for both homodimeric forms of platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF-AA and PDGF-BB), in contrast to cells from normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) animals, which express receptors only for the B-chain form of PDGF. Stimulation of quiescent VSMC from SHR with PDGF-AA resulted in activation of S6-kinase and induction of phosphoinositide catabolism, as well as cellular proliferation when cultures were maintained for prolonged periods with daily supplementation of the growth factor. WKY-derived VSMC showed no response to PDGF-AA, which was consistent with their lack of specific receptors for this homodimer. The responsiveness of quiescent cells from SHR and WKY to the B-chain homodimer was similar. The enhanced growth responsiveness of SHR-derived cells to fetal calf serum, as compared with cells from their normotensive counterparts, may be accounted for in part by their expression of receptors for the AA homodimer of PDGF.
PMCID: PMC362849  PMID: 1965150
15.  Heme Oxygenase-1 Induced by Aprotinin Inhibits Vascular Smooth Muscle Cell Proliferation Through Cell Cycle Arrest in Hypertensive Rats 
Spontaneous hypertensive rats (SHR) are an established model of genetic hypertension. Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMC) from SHR proliferate faster than those of control rats (Wistar-Kyoto rats; WKY). We tested the hypothesis that induction of heme oxygenase (HO)-1 induced by aprotinin inhibits VSMC proliferation through cell cycle arrest in hypertensive rats. Aprotinin treatment inhibited VSMC proliferation in SHR more than in normotensive rats. These inhibitory effects were associated with cell cycle arrest in the G1 phase. Tin protoporphyrin IX (SnPPIX) reversed the anti-proliferative effect of aprotinin in VSMC from SHR. The level of cyclin D was higher in VSMC of SHR than those of WKY. Aprotinin treatment downregulated the cell cycle regulator, cyclin D, but upregulated the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor, p21, in VSMC of SHR. Aprotinin induced HO-1 in VSMC of SHR, but not in those of control rats. Furthermore, aprotinin-induced HO-1 inhibited VSMC proliferation of SHR. Consistently, VSMC proliferation in SHR was significantly inhibited by transfection with the HO-1 gene. These results indicate that induction of HO-1 by aprotinin inhibits VSMC proliferation through cell cycle arrest in hypertensive rats.
PMCID: PMC2766711  PMID: 19885015
Aprotinin; Hypertension; Proliferation; Heme oxygenase-1; Cell cycle arrest
16.  Abnormal Intracellular Calcium Homeostasis in Sympathetic Neurons from Young Prehypertensive Rats 
Hypertension  2012;59(3):642-649.
Hypertension is associated with cardiac noradrenergic hyperactivity, although it is not clear if this precedes or follows the development of hypertension itself. We hypothesized that Ca2+ homeostasis in postganglionic sympathetic neurons is impaired in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR), and may occur before the development of hypertension. The depolarization induced rise in intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) (measured using fura-2/AM) was significantly larger in cultured sympathetic neurons from pre-hypertensive SHR’s than in age matched normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. The decay of the [Ca2+]i transient was also faster in SHRs. The endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ content and caffeine induced [Ca2+]i amplitude were significantly greater in the young SHR. Lower protein levels of phospholamban and more copies of ryanodine receptor mRNA were also observed in the young SHR. Depleting the endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ store did not alter the difference of the evoked [Ca2+]i transient and decay time between young SHR and WKY. However, removing mitochondrial Ca2+ buffering abolished these differences. A lower mitochondrial membrane potential was also observed in young SHR sympathetic neurons. This resulted in impaired mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake and release which might partly be responsible for the increased [Ca2+]i transient and faster decay in SHR sympathetic neurons. This Ca2+ phenotype seen in early development in cardiac stellate and superior cervical ganglion neurons may contribute to the sympathetic hyper-responsiveness that precedes the onset of hypertension.
PMCID: PMC3299568  PMID: 22252398
Hypertension; Sympathetic neuron; Calcium homeostasis; endoplasmic reticulum; mitochondria
17.  Atrial Arrhythmia in Ageing Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats: Unraveling the Substrate in Hypertension and Ageing 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e72416.
Both ageing and hypertension are known risk factors for atrial fibrillation (AF) although the pathophysiological contribution or interaction of the individual factors remains poorly understood. Here we aim to delineate the arrhythmogenic atrial substrate in mature spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR).
SHR were studied at 12 and 15 months of age (n = 8 per group) together with equal numbers of age-matched normotensive Wistar-Kyoto control rats (WKY). Electrophysiologic study was performed on superfused isolated right and left atrial preparations using a custom built high-density multiple-electrode array to determine effective refractory periods (ERP), atrial conduction and atrial arrhythmia inducibility. Tissue specimens were harvested for structural analysis.
Compared to WKY controls, the SHR demonstrated: Higher systolic blood pressure (p<0.0001), bi-atrial enlargement (p<0.05), bi-ventricular hypertrophy (p<0.05), lower atrial ERP (p = 0.008), increased atrial conduction heterogeneity (p = 0.001) and increased atrial interstitial fibrosis (p = 0.006) & CD68-positive macrophages infiltration (p<0.0001). These changes resulted in higher atrial arrhythmia inducibility (p = 0.01) and longer induced AF episodes (p = 0.02) in 15-month old SHR. Ageing contributed to incremental bi-atrial hypertrophy (p<0.01) and atrial conduction heterogeneity (p<0.01) without affecting atrial ERP, fibrosis and arrhythmia inducibility. The limited effect of ageing on the atrial substrate may be secondary to the reduction in CD68-positive macrophages.
Significant atrial electrical and structural remodeling is evident in the ageing spontaneously hypertensive rat atria. Concomitant hypertension appears to play a greater pathophysiological role than ageing despite their compounding effect on the atrial substrate. Inflammation is pathophysiologically linked to the pro-fibrotic changes in the hypertensive atria.
PMCID: PMC3754972  PMID: 24013508
Hypertension  2008;51(6):1583-1589.
Hypertension in SHR is associated with renal redox stress and we hypothesized that nephropathy arises in SHR-A3 from altered capacity to mitigate redox stress compared with nephropathy-resistant SHR lines. We measured renal expression of redox genes in distinct lines of the spontaneously hypertensive rat (SHR-A3, SHR-B2, SHR-C) and the normotensive WKY strain. The SHR lines differ in either resisting (SHR-B2, SHR-C) or experiencing hypertensive nephropathy (SHR-A3). Immediately prior to the emergence of hypertensive renal injury expression of redox genes in SHR-A3 was profoundly altered compared with the injury-resistant SHR lines and WKY. This change appeared to arise in anti-oxidant genes where 16 of 28 were expressed at 34.3% of the level in the reference strain (WKY). No such change was observed in the injury-resistant SHR lines. We analyzed occurrence of transcription factor matrices (TFM) in the promoters of the down-regulated antioxidant genes. In these genes, the HNF1 TFM was found to be nearly twice as likely to be present and the overall frequency of HNF1 sites was nearly 5 times higher, compared with HNF1 TFMs in anti-oxidant genes that were not down-regulated. We identified 35 other (non-redox) renal genes regulated by HNF1. These were also significantly down-regulated in SHR-A3, but not in SHR-B2 or SHR-C. Finally, expression of genes that comprise HNF1 (Tcf1, Tcf2 and Dcoh) was also down-regulated in SHR-A3. The present experiments uncover a major change in transcriptional control by HNF1 that affects redox and other genes and precedes emergence of hypertensive renal injury.
PMCID: PMC2840399  PMID: 18443232
SHR; hypertension; renal injury; redox stress; transcription
19.  Gene Expression Suggests Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats May Have Altered Metabolism and Reduced Hypoxic Tolerance 
Cerebral small vessel disease (SVD) is an important cause of stroke, cognitive decline and vascular dementia (VaD). It is associated with diffuse white matter abnormalities and small deep cerebral ischemic infarcts. The molecular mechanisms involved in the development and progression of SVD are unclear. As hypertension is a major risk factor for developing SVD, Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats (SHR) are considered an appropriate experimental model for SVD. Prior work suggested an imbalance between the number of blood microvessels and astrocytes at the level of the neurovascular unit in 2-month-old SHR, leading to neuronal hypoxia in the brain of 9-month-old animals. To identify genes and pathways involved in the development of SVD, we compared the gene expression profile in the cortex of 2 and 9-month-old of SHR with age-matched normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats using microarray-based technology. The results revealed significant differences in expression of genes involved in energy and lipid metabolisms, mitochondrial functions, oxidative stress and ischemic responses between both groups. These results strongly suggest that SHR suffer from chronic hypoxia, and therefore are unable to tolerate ischemia-like conditions, and are more vulnerable to high-energy needs than WKY. This molecular analysis gives new insights about pathways accounting for the development of SVD.
PMCID: PMC3296125  PMID: 22272763
cDNA microarrays; energy metabolism; hypoxia; small vessel disease; SHR; WKY.
20.  Impact of genetic and renovascular chronic arterial hypertension on the acute spatiotemporal evolution of the ischemic penumbra: a sequential study with MRI in the rat 
Although chronic arterial hypertension (CAH) increases the risk of stroke and the severity of the resultant lesion, it is rarely integrated in preclinical studies. Here, we analyzed the impact of CAH on the acute spatiotemporal evolution of the ischemic penumbra as defined by the perfusion-weighted imaging/diffusion-weighted imaging mismatch. Sequential 7T-MRI examinations were performed from 30 minutes up to 4 hours after permanent cerebral ischemia in genetically hypertensive rats (spontaneously hypertensive rats, SHR), renovascular-hypertensive rats (RH-WKY), and their normotensive controls (Wistar-Kyoto rats, WKY). The apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC)-defined lesion was larger in hypertensive rats than in normotensive animals as early as 30 minutes after the ischemia. The ischemic penumbra was smaller in both genetically and renovascular-hypertensive rats (at 30 minutes; SHR=66±25 mm3, RH-WKY=55±17 mm3 versus WKY=117±14 mm3; P<0.008) and there was no significant difference between the perfusion deficit and ADC lesion (mismatch definition of penumbra) as early as 90 minutes after the occlusion. Genetic hypertension and induced renovascular hypertension resulted in larger lesion and smaller penumbra that vanished rapidly. These data support the need to integrate CAH in preclinical studies relative to the treatment of stroke, as failure to do so may lead to preclinical results nonpredictive of clinical trials, which include hypertensive patients.
PMCID: PMC3049506  PMID: 20648035
arterial hypertension; ischemic penumbra; MRI; perfusion–diffusion mismatch; preclinical model; stroke
21.  Genotype-Related Effect of Crowding Stress on Blood Pressure and Vascular Function in Young Female Rats 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:413629.
This study investigated the influence of chronic crowding stress on nitric oxide (NO) production, vascular function and oxidative status in young Wistar-Kyoto (WKY), borderline hypertensive (BHR) and spontaneously hypertensive (SHR) female rats. Five-week old rats were exposed to crowding for two weeks. Crowding elevated plasma corticosterone (P < 0.05) and accelerated BP (P < 0.01 versus basal) only in BHR. NO production and superoxide concentration were significantly higher in the aortas of control BHR and SHR versus WKY. Total acetylcholine (ACh)-induced relaxation in the femoral artery was reduced in control SHR versus WKY and BHR, and stress did not affect it significantly in any genotype. The attenuation of ACh-induced relaxation in SHR versus WKY was associated with reduction of its NO-independent component. Crowding elevated NO production in all strains investigated but superoxide concentration was increased only in WKY, which resulted in reduced NO-dependent relaxation in WKY. In crowded BHR and SHR, superoxide concentration was either unchanged or reduced, respectively, but NO-dependent relaxation was unchanged in both BHR and SHR versus their respective control group. This study points to genotype-related differences in stress vulnerability in young female rats. The most pronounced negative influence of stress was observed in BHR despite preserved endothelial function.
PMCID: PMC3963217
22.  Swimming Exercise Changes Hemodynamic Responses Evoked by Blockade of Excitatory Amino Receptors in the Rostral Ventrolateral Medulla in Spontaneously Hypertensive Rats 
BioMed Research International  2014;2014:487129.
Exercise training reduces sympathetic activity in hypertensive humans and rats. We hypothesized that the swimming exercise would change the neurotransmission in the rostral ventrolateral medulla (RVLM), a key region involved in sympathetic outflow, and hemodynamic control in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. Bilateral injections of kynurenic acid (KYN) were carried out in the RVLM in sedentary- (S-) or exercised- (E-) SHR and WKY rats submitted to swimming for 6  weeks. Rats were α-chloralose anesthetized and artificially ventilated, with Doppler flow probes around the lower abdominal aorta and superior mesenteric artery. Injections into the RVLM were made before and after i.v. L-NAME (nitric oxide synthase, NOS, inhibitor). Injections of KYN into the RVLM elicited a major vasodilation in the hindlimb more than in the mesenteric artery in E-SHR compared to S-SHR, but similar decrease in arterial pressure was observed in both groups. Injections of KYN into the RVLM after i.v. L-NAME attenuated the hindlimb vasodilation evoked by KYN and increased the mesenteric vasodilation in E-SHR. Swimming exercise can enhance the hindlimb vasodilation mediated by peripheral NO release, reducing the activation of neurons with EAA receptors in the RVLM in SHR.
PMCID: PMC3947672
23.  Diabetic Retinal Neurodegeneration Is Associated With Mitochondrial Oxidative Stress and Is Improved by an Angiotensin Receptor Blocker in a Model Combining Hypertension and Diabetes 
Diabetes  2009;58(6):1382-1390.
Diabetic retinopathy displays the features of a neurodegenerative disease. Oxidative stress is involved in the pathogenesis of diabetic retinopathy. This investigation sought to determine whether hypertension exacerbates the oxidative stress, neurodegeneration, and mitochondrial dysfunction that exists in diabetic retinopathy and whether these changes could be minimized by the angiotensin II type 1 (AT1) receptor blocker (ARB) losartan.
Diabetes was induced in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHRs) and normotensive Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats. The diabetic SHRs were assigned to receive or not receive losartan.
The level of apoptosis in the retina was higher in diabetic WKY rats than in the control group, and higher levels were found in diabetic SHRs. The apoptotic cells expressed neural and glial markers. The retinal glial reaction was more evident in diabetic WKY rats and was markedly accentuated in diabetic SHRs. Superoxide production in retinal tissue increased in diabetic WKY rats, and a greater increase occurred in diabetic SHRs. Glutathione levels decreased only in diabetic SHRs. As a consequence, the levels of nitrotyrosine and 8-hydroxy 2′-deoxyguanosine, markers of oxidative stress, were elevated in diabetic groups, mainly in diabetic SHRs. Mitochondrial integrity was dramatically affected in the diabetic groups. The ARB treatment reestablished all of the above-mentioned parameters.
These findings suggest that concomitance of hypertension and diabetes exacerbates oxidative stress, neurodegeneration, and mitochondrial dysfunction in the retinal cells. These data provide the first evidence of AT1blockage as a neuroprotective treatment of diabetic retinopathy by reestablishing oxidative redox and the mitochondrial function.
PMCID: PMC2682683  PMID: 19289456
24.  ACE2 Activation Promotes Antithrombotic Activity 
Molecular Medicine  2010;16(5-6):210-215.
The aim of the present study was to test the hypothesis that the activation of the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE)2/angiotensin-(1-7)/Mas receptor axis by use of a novel ACE2 activator (XNT) would protect against thrombosis. Thrombi were induced in the vena cava of spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats, and ACE2 and ACE activity in the thrombus was determined. Real-time thrombus formation was viewed through intravital microscopy of vessels in nude mice. Thrombus weight was 40% greater in the SHR (4.99 ± 0.39 versus 7.04 ± 0.66 mg). This weight increase was associated with a 20% decrease in ACE2 activity in the thrombus. In contrast, there were no differences between the WKY and SHR in ACE2 protein and ACE activity in the thrombi. ACE2 inhibition (DX600; 0.1 μmol/L/kg) increased thrombus weight by 30% and XNT treatment (10 mg/kg) resulted in a 30% attenuation of thrombus formation in the SHR. Moreover, XNT reduced platelet attachment to injured vessels, reduced thrombus size, and prolonged the time for complete vessel occlusion in mice. Thus, a decrease in thrombus ACE2 activity is associated with increased thrombus formation in SHR. Furthermore, ACE2 activation attenuates thrombus formation and reduces platelet attachment to vessels. These results suggest that ACE2 could be a novel target for the treatment of thrombogenic diseases.
PMCID: PMC2811560  PMID: 20111697
The development of hypertension is accompanied by changes in the rheological properties of blood, particularly by increased red blood cell (RBC) aggregation leading to further pathological complications. However, it is not clear whether these changes in aggregation are caused only by increased concentrations of plasma adhesion proteins or if alterations in RBC membranes are also involved. The aim of the present study was to determine if RBC aggregability is altered during hypertension and if these changes correlate with alterations in RBC membrane protein concentrations. Aggregability changes were evaluated by comparing fibrinogen (Fb)-induced aggregation of RBCs from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) with RBCs from age matched normotensive Wistar Kyoto (WKY) rats. ANOVA showed a significant increase in dose-dependent Fb-induced aggregation of RBCs in the SHR group. Analysis of Coomassie-stained gels of RBC membrane proteins using SDS-PAGE showed a significant increase in the amount of a protein at 110 kD in the SHR group. These results show that increased RBC aggregability is accompanied by alterations in RBC membrane protein composition during hypertension development.
PMCID: PMC2823260  PMID: 12109779
Erythrocytes; Fibrinogen; Hypertension; Membrane proteins

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