Angiotensin II receptor blockade corrects altered expression of gap junctions in vascular endothelial cells from hypertensive rats

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2004 Jul;287(1):H216-24. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00915.2003. Epub 2004 Mar 11.


Blockade of the renin-angiotensin system improves the impaired endothelium-dependent relaxations associated with hypertension and aging, partly through amelioration of endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF)-mediated responses. Although the nature of EDHF is still controversial, recent studies have suggested the involvement of gap junctions in EDHF-mediated responses. Gap junctions consist of connexins (Cx), and we therefore tested whether the expression of Cx in vascular endothelial cells would be altered by hypertension and antihypertensive treatment. Spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) were treated with either the angiotensin II type 1 receptor antagonist candesartan or the combination of hydralazine and hydrochlorothiazide for 3 mo from 5 to 8 mo of age. Confocal laser scanning microscopy after immunofluorescent labeling with antibodies against Cx37, Cx40, and Cx43 revealed that the expression of Cx37 and Cx40 in endothelial cells of the mesenteric artery was significantly lower in SHR than in WKY. Treatment with candesartan, but not the combination of hydralazine and hydrochlorothiazide, significantly increased the expression of Cx37 and Cx40, although blood pressure decreased similarly. On the other hand, the expression of Cx43, though scarce and heterogeneous, was increased in SHR compared with WKY, and candesartan treatment lowered the expression of Cx43. These findings suggest that renin-angiotensin system blockade corrects the decreased expression of Cx37 and Cx40 in arterial endothelial cells of hypertensive rats, partly independently of blood pressure, whereas the expression of Cx43 changed in the opposite direction. It remains to be clarified whether these changes in Cx37 and Cx40 are related to endothelial function, particularly that attributable to EDHF.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists*
  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / pharmacology
  • Benzimidazoles / pharmacology
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Body Weight / drug effects
  • Connexin 43 / metabolism*
  • Connexins / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Gap Junctions / metabolism*
  • Heart Rate / drug effects
  • Hypertension / metabolism*
  • Hypertension / pathology
  • Hypertension / physiopathology
  • Male
  • Mesenteric Arteries
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred SHR
  • Rats, Inbred WKY
  • Tetrazoles / pharmacology


  • Angiotensin II Type 1 Receptor Blockers
  • Angiotensin Receptor Antagonists
  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Benzimidazoles
  • Connexin 43
  • Connexins
  • Tetrazoles
  • connexin 37
  • connexin 40
  • candesartan