Since kallikrein was discovered as a vasodilatory substance in human urine, the kallikrein–kinin system (KKS) has been considered to play a physiological role in controlling blood pressure. Gene targeting experiments in mice in which the KKS has been inactivated to varying degrees have, however, questioned this role, because basal blood pressures are not altered. Rather, these experiments have shown that the KKS has a different and important role in preventing changes associated with normal senescence in mice, and in reducing the nephropathy and accelerated senescence-associated phenotypes induced in mice by diabetes. Other experiments have shown that the KKS suppresses mitochondrial respiration, partly by nitric oxide and prostaglandins, and that this suppression may be a key to understanding how the KKS influences senescence-related diseases. Here we review the logical progression and experimental data leading to these conclusions, and discuss their relevance to human conditions.
ACE inhibitors; aging; bradykinin; DNA damage; electron transport chain; oxidative stress
Purpose of review
The Kallikrein-kinin system (KKS) constitutes a complex multi-enzyme cascade that produces several bioactive kinin peptides and their derivatives including bradykinin. In addition to the classical notion of the KKS as a potent vasodilator and a mediator of inflammatory responses, recent studies suggest a link between the KKS and oxidative stress. A number of established mouse model with altered levels of KKS components opened the way to evaluate precise functions of the KKS. Here we review recent findings on the role of the KKS in cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney diseases, and discuss potential benefits of KKS activation in these diseases.
Deletion of both B1R and B2R in a diabetic mouse model exacerbates its renal phenotypes, suggesting that the KKS exerts protective effects on diabetic nephropathy by suppressing oxidative stress, presumably via nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandins (PGs).
Accumulating evidence has highlighted the importance of the KKS as a protective system against oxidative stress and organ damage in the heart and kidney. The activation of the KKS by ACE inhibitors and vasopeptidase inhibitors is likely to be beneficial in senescence-associated cardiovascular diseases and chronic kidney diseases.
Kallikrein-kinin system (KKS); angiotensin-I converting enzyme (ACE); oxidative stress; diabetes mellitus complications
Expression in the adult heart of a number of cardiac genes, including the two genes comprising the cardiac Myosin heavy chain locus (Myh), is controlled by thyroid hormone (T3) levels, but there is minimal information concerning the epigenetic status of the genes when their expressions change. We fed mice normal chow or a Propyl thio uracil (PTU, an inhibitor of T3 production)-diet for 6 weeks, or the PTU diet for 6 weeks followed by normal chow for a further two weeks. Heart ventricles from these groups were then used for ChIP-seq analyses with an antibody to H3K4me3, a well documented epigenetic marker of gene activation. The resulting data show that, at the Myh7 locus, H3K4me3 modifications are induced primarily at 5’ transcribed region in parallel with increased expression of beta myosin heavy chain (MHC). At the Myh6 locus, decreases in H3K4me3 modifications occurred at the promoter and 5’ transcribed region. Extensive H3K4me3 modifications also occurred at the intergenic region between the two Myh genes which extended into the 3’ transcribed region of Myh7. The PTU-induced changes in H3K4me3 levels are, for the most part, reversible but are not invariably complete. We found full restoration of Myh6 gene expression upon PTU withdrawal, however the H3K4me3 pattern was only partially restored at Myh6, suggesting that full re-expression of Myh6 does not require that the H3K4me3 modifications return fully to the untreated conditions. Together, our data show that the H3K4me3 modification is an epigenetic marker closely associated with changes in Myh gene expression.
Myosin heavy chain; epigenetic; ChIP-seq; Thyroid Hormone; Heart; histone methylation
Diabetic nephropathy is the major cause of end-stage renal disease worldwide. Although the renin-angiotensin system has been implicated in the pathogenesis of diabetic nephropathy, angiotensin I-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors have a beneficial effect on diabetic nephropathy independently of their effects on blood pressure and plasma angiotensin II levels. This suggests that the kallikrein-kinin system (KKS) is also involved in the disease. To study the role of the KKS in diabetic nephropathy, mice lacking either the bradykinin B1 receptor (B1R) or the bradykinin B2 receptor (B2R) have been commonly used. However, because absence of either receptor causes enhanced expression of the other, it is difficult to determine the precise functions of each receptor. This difficulty has recently been overcome by comparing mice lacking both receptors with mice lacking each receptor. Deletion of both B1R and B2R reduces nitric oxide (NO) production and aggravates renal diabetic phenotypes, relevant to either lack of B1R or B2R, demonstrating that both B1R and B2R exert protective effects on diabetic nephropathy presumably via NO. Here, we review previous epidemiological and experimental studies, and discuss novel insights regarding the therapeutic implications of the importance of the KKS in averting diabetic nephropathy.
Bradykinin; Diabetic nephropathy; ACE inhibitors; Nitric oxide; Oxidative stress
In view of the well-known phenomenon of trophoblast immune privilege, trophoblast stem cells (TSCs) might be expected to be immune privileged, which could be of interest for cell or gene therapies. Yet in the ectopic sites tested so far, TSC transplants fail to show noticeable immune privilege and seem to lack physiological support. However, we show here that after portal venous injection, green fluorescent protein (GFP)-labeled TSCs survive for several months in the livers of allogeneic female but not male mice. Gonadectomy experiments revealed that this survival does not require the presence of ovarian hormones but does require the absence of testicular factors. By contrast, GFP-labeled allogeneic embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are reliably rejected; however, these same ESCs survive when mixed with unlabeled TSCs. The protective effect does not require immunological compatibility between ESCs and TSCs. Tumors were not observed in animals with either successfully engrafted TSCs or coinjected ESCs. We conclude that in a suitable hormonal context and location, ectopic TSCs can exhibit and confer immune privilege. These findings suggest applications in cell and gene therapy as well as a new model for studying trophoblast immunology and physiology.
Trophoblast; Stem cells; Cell therapy; Transplantation; Immune privilege; Mice
Autologous bone marrow (BM) cells with a faulty gene corrected by gene targeting could provide a powerful therapeutic option for patients with genetic blood diseases. Achieving this goal is hindered by the low abundance of therapeutically useful BM cells and the difficulty of maintaining them in tissue culture long enough for completing gene targeting without them differentiating. Our objective was to devise a simple long-term culture system, using unfractioned BM cells, that maintains and expands therapeutically useful cells for ≥4 weeks.
Materials and Methods
From 2 to 60 million BM cells from wild-type (WT) mice, or from mice carrying a truncated erythropoietin receptor transgene (tEpoR-tg), were plated with or without irradiated fetal-liver derived AFT024 stromal cells in 25 cm2 culture flasks. Four-week cultured cells were analyzed and transplanted into sublethally irradiated thalassemic mice (1 million cells / mouse).
After 4 weeks, the cultures with AFT024 cells had extensive “cobblestone” areas. Optimum expansion of Sca-1 positive cells was 5.5-fold with 20 × 106 WT cells/flask and 27-fold with 2 × 106 tEpoR-tg cells. More than 85% of thalassemic mice transplanted with either type of cells had almost complete reversal of their thalassemic phenotype for at least 6 months, including blood smear dysmorphology, reticulocytosis, high ferritin plasma levels and hepatic/renal hemosiderosis.
When plated at high cell densities on irradiated fetal-liver derived stromal cells, BM cells from WT mice maintain their therapeutic potential for 4 weeks in culture, which is sufficient time for correction of a faulty gene by targeting.
Hematopoietic stem cells; long term bone marrow culture; bone marrow transplantation; thalassemia; gene targeting
The two genes of the cardiac Myosin Heavy Chain (MHC) locus - alpha MHC (aMHC) and beta MHC (bMHC) - are reciprocally regulated in the mouse ventricle during development and in adult conditions such as hypothyroidism and pathological cardiac hypertrophy. Their expressions are under the control of thyroid hormone T3 levels. To gain insights into the epigenetic mechanisms that underlie this inducible and reversible switching of the aMHC and bMHC isoforms, we have investigated the histone modification patterns that occur over the two cardiac MHC promoters during T3-mediated reversible switching of gene expression. Mice fed a diet of propylthiouracil (PTU-an inhibitor of T3 synthesis) for 2 weeks dramatically reduce aMHC mRNA expression and increase bMHC mRNA levels to high levels, while a subsequent withdrawal of PTU diet for 2 weeks completely reverses the T3-mediated changes in MHC expression. Using hearts from mice treated in this way, we carried out chromatin immunoprecipitation-qPCR assays with antibodies against acetylated histone H3 (H3ac) and trimethylated histone (H3K4me3) - two well-documented markers of activation. Our results show that the re-expression of bMHC is associated at the bMHC promoter with increased H3ac but not H3K4me3. In contrast, the silencing of aMHC is associated at its promoter with decreased H3K4me3, but not decreased H3ac. The epigenetic changes at the two MHC promoters are completely reversed when the gene expression returns to initial levels. These data indicate that during reciprocal and inducible gene expression H3ac parallels bMHC isoform expression while H3K4me3 parallels expression of the tightly linked aMHC isoform.
Chromatin; thyroid hormone; heart; histone; acetylation; methylation
The heart adapts to an increased workload through the activation of a hypertrophic response within the cardiac ventricles. This response is characterized by both an increase in the size of the individual cardiomyocytes and an induction of a panel of genes normally expressed in the embryonic and neonatal ventricle, such as atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP). ANP and brain natriuretic peptide (BNP) exert their biological actions through activation of the natriuretic peptide receptor-1 (Npr1). The current study examined mice lacking Npr1 (Npr1−/−) activity and investigated the effects of the absence of Npr1 signaling during cardiac development on embryo viability, cardiac structure and gene and protein expression. Npr1−/−embryos were collected at embryonic day (ED) 12.5, 15.5 and neonatal day 1 (ND 1). Npr1−/−embryos occurred at the expected Mendelian frequency at ED 12.5, but knockout numbers were significantly decreased at ED 15.5 and ND 1. There was no indication of cardiac structural abnormalities in surviving embryos. However, Npr1−/−embryos exhibited cardiac enlargement (without fibrosis) from ED 15.5 as well as significantly increased ANP mRNA and protein expression compared to wild-type (WT) mice, but no concomitant increase in expression of the hypertrophy-related transcription factors, Mef2A, Mef2C, GATA-4, GATA-6 or serum response factor (SRF). However, there was a significant decrease in Connexin-43 (Cx43) gene and protein expression at mid-gestation in Npr1−/−embryos. Our findings suggest that the mechanism by which natriuretic peptide signaling influences cardiac development in Npr1−/− mice is distinct from that seen during the development of pathological cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis. The decreased viability of Npr1−/−embryos may result from a combination of cardiomegaly and dysregulated Cx43 protein affecting cardiac contractility.
Akt1; Atrial natriuretic peptide; Calcineurin A; Cardiac hypertrophy; Connexin 43; Gene expression; Heart development; Npr1; Transcription factor
Cardiac hypertrophy is associated with a reduction in the contractile response to beta-adrenergic stimulation, and with re-expression of foetal genes such as beta-myosin heavy chain (MHC). However, whether these two markers of pathology develop concordantly in the same individual cells or independently in different cells is not known.
Methods and results
To answer this question, we examined the beta-adrenergic response of individual beta-MHC expressing and non-expressing myocytes from hypertrophic hearts, using a previously generated mouse model (YFP/beta-MHC) in which a yellow fluorescent protein (YFP) is fused to the native beta-MHC protein allowing easy identification of beta-MHC expressing cells. Yellow fluorescent protein/beta-MHC mice were submitted to 4 weeks of transverse aortic constriction (TAC), and the contractile parameters of isolated individual myocytes in response to the beta-adrenergic agonist isoproterenol were assessed. Our results demonstrate that the decrease in isoproterenol-induced cell shortening that develops in TAC hearts occurs only in those hypertrophic myocytes that re-express beta-MHC. Hypertrophic myocytes that do not express beta-MHC have contractility indices indistinguishable from non-TAC controls.
These data show that the reduction of beta-adrenergic response occurs only in subsets, rather than in all myocytes, and is coincident with re-expression of beta-MHC.
Cardiac hypertrophy; Beta myosin heavy chain; Beta adrenergic receptors
Proteinuria is a major marker of the decline of renal function and an important risk factor of coronary heart disease. Elevated proteinuria is associated to the disruption of slit-diaphragm and loss of podocyte foot processes, structural alterations that are considered irreversible. The objective of the present study was to investigate whether proteinuria can be reversed and to identify the structural modifications and the gene/protein regulation associated to this reversal.
We used a novel transgenic strain of mouse (RenTg) that overexpresses renin at a constant high level. At the age of 12-month, RenTg mice showed established lesions typical of chronic renal disease such as peri-vascular and periglomerular inflammation, glomerular ischemia, glomerulosclerosis, mesangial expansion and tubular dilation. Ultrastructural analysis indicated abnormal heterogeneity of basement membrane thickness and disappearance of podocyte foot processes. These structural alterations were accompanied by decreased expressions of proteins specific of podocyte (nephrin, podocin), or tubular epithelial cell (E-cadherin and megalin) integrity. In addition, since TGFβ is considered the major pro-fibrotic agent in renal disease and since exogenous administration of BMP7 is reported to antagonize the TGFβ-induced phenotype changes in kidney, we have screened the expressions of several genes belonging in the TGFβ/BMP superfamily. We found that the endogenous inhibitors of BMPs such as noggin and Usag-1 were several-fold activated inhibiting the action of BMPs and thus reinforcing the deleterious action of TGFβ.Treatment with an AT1 receptor antagonist, at dose that did not decrease arterial pressure, gradually reduced albuminuria. This decrease was accompanied by re-expression of podocin, nephrin, E-cadherin and megalin, and reappearance of podocyte foot processes. In addition, expressions of noggin and Usag-1 were markedly decreased, permitting thus activation of the beneficial action of BMPs.
These findings show that proteinuria and alterations in the expression of proteins involved in the integrity and function of glomerular and renal epithelial phenotype are reversible events when the local action of angiotensin II is blocked, and provide hope that chronic renal disease can be efficiently treated.
ACE and ACE2 and the AT1 and AT2 receptors are pivotal points of regulation in the renin-angiotensin system. ACE and ACE2 are key enzymes in the formation and degradation of Ang II and Ang-(1-7). Ang II acts at either the AT1 or the AT2 receptor to mediate opposing actions of vasoconstriction/vasodilation. While it is known that estrogen (E2) acts to down-regulate ACE and the AT1 receptors, its regulation of ACE2 and the AT2 receptor and the involvement of a specific estrogen receptor subtype are unknown. To investigate the role of estrogen receptor-α (ERα) in estrogen’s regulation of ACE/ACE2 and AT1/AT2 mRNAs in lung and kidney, ovariectomized female mice lacking apolipoprotein E (ee) with the ERα (AAee) or without the ERα (ααee) were treated with 17-β estradiol (6 µg/day) or placebo for 3 months. ACE,ACE2 and AT1/AT2 receptor mRNAs were measured using reverse transcriptase, real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT/RT-PCR). In the kidney, 17-β estradiol showed 1.7 fold down-regulation of ACE mRNA in AAee mice, with 2.1-fold up-regulation of ACE mRNA in ααee mice. 17-β estradiol showed 1.5 and 1.8 fold down-regulation of ACE2 and AT1 receptor mRNA in AAee mice; this regulation was lost in ααee mice. 17-β estradiol showed marked (81-fold) up-regulation of the AT2 receptor mRNA in AAee mice. In the lung 17-β estradiol treatment had no effect on AT1 receptor mRNA in AAee mice, but resulted in a 1.5-fold decreased regulation of AT1 mRNA in ααee. There was no significant interaction of estrogen with ER in the lung for ACE, ACE2, and AT2 receptor genes. These studies reveal tissue specific regulation by 17-β estradiol of ACE/ACE2 and AT1/AT2 receptor genes with the ERα receptor primarily responsible for the regulation of kidney ACE2 , AT1 receptor, and AT2 receptor genes.
renin-angiotensin system; lung and kidney; ACE; ACE2; AT1 and AT2 receptors; ERKO mice
To examine a role for focal adhesion kinase (FAK) in cardiac morphogenesis, we generated a line of mice with a conditional deletion of FAK in nkx2-5-expressing cells (herein termed FAKnk mice). FAKnk mice died shortly after birth, likely resulting from a profound subaortic ventricular septal defect and associated malalignment of the outflow tract. Additional less penetrant phenotypes included persistent truncus arteriosus and thickened valve leaflets. Thus, conditional inactivation of FAK in nkx2-5-expressing cells leads to the most common congenital heart defect that is also a subset of abnormalities associated with tetralogy of Fallot and the DiGeorge syndrome. No significant differences in proliferation or apoptosis between control and FAKnk hearts were observed. However, decreased myocardialization was observed for the conal ridges of the proximal outflow tract in FAKnk hearts. Interestingly, chemotaxis was significantly attenuated in isolated FAK-null cardiomyocytes in comparison to genetic controls, and these effects were concomitant with reduced tyrosine phosphorylation of Crk-associated substrate (CAS). Thus, it is possible that ventricular septation and appropriate outflow tract alignment is dependent, at least in part, upon FAK-dependent CAS activation and subsequent induction of polarized myocyte movement into the conal ridges. Future studies will be necessary to determine the precise contributions of the additional nkx2-5-derived lineages to the phenotypes observed.
Studies with isolated membrane fractions have shown that calmodulin (CaM) inhibits the activity of cardiac muscle cell Ca2+ release channel ryanodine receptor 2 (RyR2). To determine the physiological importance of CaM regulation of RyR2, we generated a mouse with 3 amino acid substitutions (RyR2-W3587A/L3591D/F3603A) in exon 75 of the Ryr2 gene, which encodes the CaM-binding site of RyR2. Homozygous mutant mice showed an increased ratio of heart weight to body weight, greatly reduced fractional shortening of the left ventricle, and lethality at 9–16 days of age. Biochemical analysis of hearts of 7- and 10-day-old homozygous mutant mice indicated an impaired CaM inhibition of RyR2 at micromolar Ca2+ concentrations, reduction in RyR2 protein levels and sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ sequestration, and upregulation of genes and/or proteins associated with class II histone deacetylase/myocyte enhancer factor-2 and calcineurin signaling pathways. Sustained Ca2+ transients, often displaying repeated periods of incomplete Ca2+ removal, were observed in homozygous cardiomyocytes. Taken together, the data indicate that impaired CaM inhibition of RyR2, associated with defective sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ release and altered gene expression, leads to cardiac hypertrophy and early death.
Adrenomedullin (AM) is a multifunctional peptide vasodilator that is essential for life. Plasma AM expression dramatically increases during pregnancy, and alterations in its levels are associated with complications of pregnancy including fetal growth restriction (FGR) and preeclampsia. Using AM+/– female mice with genetically reduced AM expression, we demonstrate that fetal growth and placental development are seriously compromised by this modest decrease in expression. AM+/– female mice had reduced fertility characterized by FGR. The incidence of FGR was also influenced by the genotype of the embryo, since AM–/– embryos were more often affected than either AM+/– or AM+/+ embryos. We demonstrate that fetal trophoblast cells and the maternal uterine wall have coordinated and localized increases in AM gene expression at the time of implantation. Placentas from growth-restricted embryos showed defects in trophoblast cell invasion, similar to defects that underlie human preeclampsia and placenta accreta. Our data provide a genetic in vivo model to implicate both maternal and, to a lesser extent, embryonic levels of AM in the processes of implantation, placentation, and subsequent fetal growth. This study provides the first genetic evidence to our knowledge to suggest that a modest reduction in human AM expression during pregnancy may have an unfavorable impact on reproduction.
For over a century, there has been intense debate as to the reason why some cardiac stresses are pathological and others are physiological. One long-standing theory is that physiological overloads such as exercise are intermittent, while pathological overloads such as hypertension are chronic. In this study, we hypothesized that the nature of the stress on the heart, rather than its duration, is the key determinant of the maladaptive phenotype. To test this, we applied intermittent pressure overload on the hearts of mice and tested the roles of duration and nature of the stress on the development of cardiac failure. Despite a mild hypertrophic response, preserved systolic function, and a favorable fetal gene expression profile, hearts exposed to intermittent pressure overload displayed pathological features. Importantly, intermittent pressure overload caused diastolic dysfunction, altered β-adrenergic receptor (βAR) function, and vascular rarefaction before the development of cardiac hypertrophy, which were largely normalized by preventing the recruitment of PI3K by βAR kinase 1 to ligand-activated receptors. Thus stress-induced activation of pathogenic signaling pathways, not the duration of stress or the hypertrophic growth per se, is the molecular trigger of cardiac dysfunction.
We have previously reported that genetically increased angiotensin-converting enzyme levels, or absence of the bradykinin B2 receptor, increase kidney damage in diabetic mice. We demonstrate here that this is part of a more general phenomenon — diabetes and, to a lesser degree, absence of the B2 receptor, independently but also largely additively when combined, enhance senescence-associated phenotypes in multiple tissues. Thus, at 12 months of age, indicators of senescence (alopecia, skin atrophy, kyphosis, osteoporosis, testicular atrophy, lipofuscin accumulation in renal proximal tubule and testicular Leydig cells, and apoptosis in the testis and intestine) are virtually absent in WT mice, detectable in B2 receptor–null mice, clearly apparent in mice diabetic because of a dominant mutation (Akita) in the Ins2 gene, and most obvious in Akita diabetic plus B2 receptor–null mice. Renal expression of several genes that encode proteins associated with senescence and/or apoptosis (TGF-β1, connective tissue growth factor, p53, α-synuclein, and forkhead box O1) increases in the same progression. Concomitant increases occur in 8-hydroxy-2′-deoxyguanosine, point mutations and deletions in kidney mitochondrial DNA, and thiobarbituric acid–reactive substances in plasma, together with decreases in the reduced form of glutathione in erythrocytes. Thus, absence of the bradykinin B2 receptor increases the oxidative stress, mitochondrial DNA damage, and many senescence-associated phenotypes already present in untreated Akita diabetic mice.
Adrenomedullin (AM) is a multifunctional peptide vasodilator that is essential for life. To date, numerous in vitro studies have suggested that AM can mediate its biological effects through at least three different receptors. To determine the in vivo importance of the most likely candidate receptor, calcitonin receptor-like receptor, a gene-targeted knockout model of the gene was generated. Mice heterozygous for the targeted Calcrl allele appear normal, survive to adulthood, and reproduce. However, heterozygote matings fail to produce viable Calcrl−/− pups, demonstrating that Calcrl is essential for survival. Timed matings confirmed that Calcrl−/− embryos die between embryonic day 13.5 (E13.5) and E14.5 of gestation. The Calcrl−/− embryos exhibit extreme hydrops fetalis and cardiovascular defects, including thin vascular smooth muscle walls and small, disorganized hearts remarkably similar to the previously characterized AM−/− phenotype. In vivo assays of cellular proliferation and apoptosis in the hearts and vasculature of Calcrl−/− and AM−/− embryos support the concept that AM signaling is a crucial mediator of cardiovascular development. The Calcrl gene targeted mice provide the first in vivo genetic evidence that CLR functions as an AM receptor during embryonic development.
Angiotensin II, acting through type 1 angiotensin (AT1) receptors, has potent effects that alter renal excretory mechanisms. Control of sodium excretion by the kidney has been suggested to be the critical mechanism for blood pressure regulation by the renin-angiotensin system (RAS). However, since AT1 receptors are ubiquitously expressed, precisely dissecting their physiological actions in individual tissue compartments including the kidney with conventional pharmacological or gene targeting experiments has been difficult. Here, we used a cross-transplantation strategy and AT1A receptor–deficient mice to demonstrate distinct and virtually equivalent contributions of AT1 receptor actions in the kidney and in extrarenal tissues to determining the level of blood pressure. We demonstrate that regulation of blood pressure by extrarenal AT1A receptors cannot be explained by altered aldosterone generation, which suggests that AT1 receptor actions in systemic tissues such as the vascular and/or the central nervous systems make nonredundant contributions to blood pressure regulation. We also show that interruption of the AT1 receptor–mediated short-loop feedback in the kidney is not sufficient to explain the marked stimulation of renin production induced by global AT1 receptor deficiency or by receptor blockade. Instead, the renin response seems to be primarily determined by renal baroreceptor mechanisms triggered by reduced blood pressure. Thus, the regulation of blood pressure by the RAS is mediated by AT1 receptors both within and outside the kidney.
The vasculoprotective effects of sex hormones, particularly estrogens, have been attributed to their ability to increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide through activation of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). To dissect the relative contribution in vivo of eNOS, sex hormones, and their interaction in two complex vascular phenotypes, hypertension and atherosclerosis, we used mice doubly deficient in eNOS and apoE (nnee) or lacking only apoE (NNee). Females and males were gonadectomized at 1 month of age and implanted either with control pellets or pellets releasing 17β-estradiol (E2). Hormonally intact nnee mice have elevated blood pressure (BP) and increased atherosclerosis compared with NNee mice, but on removal of gonads, BP and atherosclerosis decreased significantly in nnee mice but not in NNee mice. Three months of treatment with exogenous E2 dramatically reduced atherosclerosis and significantly lowered BP in both NNee and nnee mice compared with animals treated with control pellets. Thus exogenous E2 has strong BP-lowering and atheroprotective effects in apoE-deficient mice, but eNOS is not essential for either effect. Endogenous sex hormones, on the other hand, cause significant damage to the vasculature in the absence of eNOS, but these effects are overridden by interactions between eNOS and sex hormones.
Mice lacking natriuretic peptide receptor A (NPRA) have marked cardiac hypertrophy and chamber dilatation disproportionate to their increased blood pressure (BP), suggesting, in support of previous in vitro data, that the NPRA system moderates the cardiac response to hypertrophic stimuli. Here, we have followed the changes in cardiac function in response to altered mechanical load on the heart of NPRA-null mice (Npr1–/–). Chronic treatment with either enalapril, furosemide, hydralazine, or losartan were all effective in reducing and maintaining BP at normal levels without affecting heart weight/body weight. In the reverse direction, we used transverse aortic constriction (TAC) to induce pressure overload. In the Npr1–/– mice, TAC resulted in a 15-fold increase in atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP) expression, a 55% increase in left ventricular weight/body weight (LV/BW), dilatation of the LV, and significant decline in cardiac function. In contrast, banded Npr1+/+ mice showed only a threefold increase in ANP expression, an 11% increase in LV/BW, a 0.2 mm decrease in LV end diastolic dimension, and no change in fractional shortening. The activation of mitogen-activated protein kinases that occurs in response to TAC did not differ in the Npr1+/+ and Npr1–/– mice. Taken together, these results suggest that the NPRA system has direct antihypertrophic actions in the heart, independent of its role in BP control.
The inhibitory effects of estrogen (17β-estradiol) on atherosclerosis have been well documented in numerous animal models, and epidemiological evidence supports this protective effect in humans. The detailed mechanisms for this protection are not understood, but most are thought to be mediated through estrogen receptors (ERs), of which two are known (ERα and ERβ). To investigate the role of ERα in the atheroprotective effect of 17β-estradiol (E2), we ovariectomized female mice that lack apoE (AAee) or lack both apoE and ERα (ααee), and treated half of them with E2 for three months. E2 treatment of ovariectomized AAee females dramatically reduced the size of the lesions as well as their histological complexity. Plasma cholesterol was significantly reduced in this group, although the observed extent of protection by E2 was greater than could be explained solely by the change in lipid levels. In contrast, E2 treatment of ovariectomized ααee females caused minimal reduction in lesion size and no reduction in total plasma cholesterol compared with ααee mice without E2, demonstrating that ERα is a major mediator of the atheroprotective effect of E2. Nevertheless, E2 treatment significantly reduced the complexity of plaques in the ααee females, although not to the same degree as in AAee females, suggesting the existence of ERα-independent atheroprotective effects of E2.
To investigate roles in intestinal inflammation for the 2 cyclooxygenase (COX) isoforms, we determined susceptibility to spontaneous and induced acute colitis in mice lacking either the COX-1 or COX-2 isoform. We treated wild-type, COX-1–/–, COX-2–/–, and heterozygous mice with dextran sodium sulfate (DSS) to provoke acute colonic inflammation, and we quantified tissue damage, prostaglandin (PG) E2, and interleukin-1β. No spontaneous gastrointestinal inflammation was detected in mice homozygous for either mutation, despite almost undetectable basal intestinal PGE2 production in COX-1–/– mice. Both COX-1–/– and COX-2–/– mice showed increased susceptibility to a low-dose of DSS that caused mild colonic epithelial injury in wild-type mice. COX-2–/– mice were more susceptible than COX-1–/– mice, and selective pharmacologic blockade of COX-2 potentiated injury in COX-1–/– mice. At a high dose, DSS treatment was fatal to 50% of the animals in each mutant group, but all wild-type mice survived. DSS treatment increased PGE2 intestinal secretion in all groups except COX-2–/– mice. These results demonstrate that COX-1 and COX-2 share a crucial role in the defense of the intestinal mucosa (with inducible COX-2 being perhaps more active during inflammation) and that neither isoform is essential in maintaining mucosal homeostasis in the absence of injurious stimuli.
Hypertension and atherosclerosis are each important causes of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. We have investigated the interaction between these conditions by breeding mice that are atherosclerotic due to lack of apolipoprotein (apo) E with mice that are hypertensive due to lack of endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS). The doubly deficient mice (nnee) have higher blood pressure (BP) and increased atherosclerotic lesion size but no change in plasma lipoprotein profiles compared with normotensive but atherosclerotic (NNee) mice. The nnee mice also develop kidney damage, evidenced by increased plasma creatinine, decreased kidney weight/body weight ratio, and glomerular lipid deposition and calcification. Enalapril treatment abolishes the deleterious effects of eNOS deficiency on BP, atherosclerosis, and kidney dysfunction in nnee mice. In striking contrast, a genetic lack of inducible NOS, which does not affect BP, has no effect on the development of atherosclerotic lesions in Apoe–/– mice. We also observed a positive relationship between BP and size of atherosclerotic lesions These results suggest that the atherogenic effects of eNOS deficiency can be partially explained by an increase in BP and reemphasize the importance of controlling hypertension in preventing atherosclerosis.
The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) is a key regulator of vascular tone and blood pressure. In addition, angiotensin II also has a number of cellular effects that may contribute to disease pathogenesis. Using Agtr1a–/– mice, which lack AT1A receptors for angiotensin II, we have identified a novel function of the RAS to modulate the immune system. We find that angiotensin II, acting through type 1 (AT1) receptors on immune cells, triggers the proliferation of splenic lymphocytes. These actions contribute to the vigor of cellular alloimmune responses. Within lymphoid organs, sufficient components of the RAS are present to activate AT1 receptors during an immune response, promoting cell growth. These actions require activation of calcineurin phosphatase. In an in vivo model of cardiac transplantation, the absence of AT1 signaling accentuates the immunosuppressive effects of the calcineurin inhibitor cyclosporine. We conclude that inhibition of AT1 receptor signaling should be useful as an anti-inflammatory and immunosuppressive therapy. Furthermore, the actions of the RAS to promote lymphocyte activation may contribute to inflammation that characterizes a number of diseases of the heart and the vascular system.
J. Clin. Invest. 104:1693–1701 (1999).
A novel approach was employed to assess the contribution of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) to obstructive nephropathy in neonatal mice having zero to four functional copies of the angiotensinogen gene (Agt). Two-day-old mice underwent unilateral ureteral obstruction (UUO) or sham operation; 28 days later, renal interstitial fibrosis and tubular atrophy were quantitated. In all Agt genotypes, UUO reduced ipsilateral renal mass and increased that of the opposite kidney. Renal interstitial collagen increased after UUO linearly with Agt expression, from a fractional area of 25% in zero-copy mice to 54% in two-copy mice. Renal expression of transforming growth factor-β1 was increased by ipsilateral UUO in mice expressing Agt, but not in zero-copy mice. However, the prevalence of atrophic tubules due to UUO did not vary with Agt expression. Blood pressure was not different in all groups, except for a reduction in sham zero-copy mice. We conclude that a functional RAS is not necessary for compensatory renal growth. This study demonstrates conclusively that angiotensin regulates at least 50% of the renal interstitial fibrotic response in obstructive nephropathy, an effect independent of systemic hemodynamic changes. Angiotensin-induced fibrosis likely is a mechanism common to the progression of many forms of renal disease.