Mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists: the evolution of utility and pharmacology

Kidney Int. 2000 Apr;57(4):1408-11. doi: 10.1046/j.1523-1755.2000.00983.x.


For more than 30 years after the discovery of aldosterone, scientists believed that its sole site of action was at epithelial tissues, most notably the kidney, where it mediated the transport of Na and K. It was soon recognized aldosterone contributed to several diseases by causing edema. Armed with this information, scientists set out more than 30 years ago to develop an antagonist of the mineralocorticoid receptor for the treatment of edematous states. From this effort, spironolactone (Aldactone was discovered. Spironolactone acts functionally as a competitive inhibitor of the mineralocorticoid (aldosterone) receptor, and although spironolactone is an effective mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist, it is not without limitations. These limitations include unwanted progestational and antiadrogenic side effects that limit its use in the chronic treatment of disease. In addition to its actions at the collecting tubule, aldosterone can participate in pathophysiology by actions at the heart, vasculature, and kidney, and it is likely that the most significant contributions to cardiovascular disease are due to actions at these sites rather than those related to Na and water retention. This is underscored by the recent clinical results from the RALES-004 Trial in which treatment with Aldactone demonstrated a significant benefit on mortality in patients with severe heart failure. The limited utility of spironolactone owing to the aforementioned steroid-related side effects has been especially frustrating, given the newly recognized role of aldosterone in cardiovascular disease. To obviate these limitations, eplerenone is currently being developed by Searle. Eplerenone is a competitive antagonist of the mineralocorticoid receptor that takes advantage of replacing the 17alpha-thoacetyl group of spironolactone with a carbomethoxy group, conferring excellent selectivity for the mineralocorticoid receptor over other steroid receptors. The pharmacological profile of eplerenone positions it to be an effective and selective mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldosterone / physiology
  • Animals
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Drug Industry
  • Edema / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists* / adverse effects
  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists* / pharmacology*
  • Spironolactone / pharmacology*


  • Mineralocorticoid Receptor Antagonists
  • Spironolactone
  • Aldosterone