Dissociation of Direct and Indirect Effects of Angiotensin II on the Heart
Cardiac angiotensin II (Ang II), either derived from the circulation or locally synthesized, is often suggested to be involved in the structural adaptations occurring in the heart in hypertension and following myocardial infarction. However, it is debated whether the proven beneficial effects of renin-angiotensin system blockade in these pathologies are related to an inhibition of the direct cardiac actions of the peptide. The objective of the present study was to investigate which of the effects of cardiac Ang II are due to direct stimulation of cardiac cells by Ang II. To test for cardiac specific functions of Ang II, transgenic mice were developed that express an Ang II-releasing fusion protein (J Biol Chem 1997;272:12994-99) exclusively in cardiomyocytes. Blood pressure, heart rate, cardiac and plasma Ang II content, Ang II receptor binding and organ morphology were monitored in transgenic (TG) and non-transgenic littermate mice (control). Cardiac Ang II levels in TG mice were 20-40 fold higher than in hearts of control mice (15±3 pg/100 mg ww). In 3 independent founder lines of TG mice, plasma Ang II concentration was not altered as compared to control (119±20 vs. 127±20 pg/mL). The heart weight to body weight ratio in TG mice (4.0±0.1 mg/g) was not different from controls (3.8±0.1 mg/g), neither was systolic pressure (137±4 and 138±7 mm Hg respectively) or heart rate (618±13 and 662±15 bpm respectively). Microscopic inspection of TG hearts did not reveal any differences with control regarding size and number of cardiomyocytes and organization of extracellular matrix proteins. TG mice had not become less sensitive for Ang II signaling since Ang II receptor number was not altered in TG mice (Bmax = 23±3 fmol/mg protein) as compared to control (22±2 fmol/mg protein). Our data show that very high Ang II levels in hearts of TG mice do not lead to myocardial enlargement or affect cardiovascular physiology. We conclude that elevated Ang II in the heart has no direct effects on cardiac cells and we hypothesize that effects of cardiac Ang II become apparent upon altered hemodynamic loading.