Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2 Is a Critical Determinant of Angiotensin II–Induced Loss of Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells and Adverse Vascular Remodeling
Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) 2 is a key negative regulator of the renin–angiotensin system and metabolizes angiotensin II (Ang II) into Ang 1 to 7. Ang II is a vasoactive peptide, which plays an important role in vascular disease. The objective of the present study was to define the role of ACE2 in pathological vascular remodeling. We found upregulation of ACE2 in dilated human aorta with bicuspid aortic valve and in murine aorta in response to Ang II. Ex vivo pressure myography showed increased vascular stiffness in ACE2 knockout (KO) mesenteric arteries in response to Ang II (1.5 mg/kg per day) and with aging. Histological analyses revealed reduced media-to-lumen ratio in ACE2KO mesenteric arteries with loss of vascular smooth muscle cells. Aortic vascular smooth muscle cells from ACE2KO mice showed markedly increased reactive oxygen species and apoptosis in response to Ang II along with increased cleaved caspase-3 and cleaved caspase-8 levels in the ACE2KO aorta. Ang II type 1 receptor blockade and Ang 1 to 7 supplementation prevented the increase in Ang II–induced reactive oxygen species and apoptotic cell death. In the aorta, Ang II resulted in thoracic and abdominal aortic dilation with loss of vascular smooth muscle cell density in ACE2KO aorta as revealed by α-smooth muscle actin, calponin staining, and electron microscopy with increased promatrix metalloproteinase 2, matrix metalloproteinase 2, and matrix metalloproteinase 9 levels. ACE2 is upregulated in vascular diseases, and ACE2 deficiency exacerbates Ang II–mediated vascular remodeling driven by increased reactive oxygen species and vascular smooth muscle cell apoptosis. In conclusion, the key counter-regulatory role of ACE2 against an activated renin–angiotensin system provides novel insights into the role of ACE2 in vascular diseases.
- Received February 17, 2014.
- Revision received March 5, 2014.
- Accepted April 7, 2014.
- © 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.