Vasoactive peptides, such as endothelin-1 and angiotensin II are recognized by specific receptor proteins located in the cell membrane of target cells. Following receptor recognition, the specificity of the cellular response is achieved by G-protein coupling of ligand binding to the regulation of intracellular effectors. These intracellular effectors will be the subject of this brief review on contractile activity initiated by endothelin-1 and angiotensin II.Activation of receptors by endothelin-1 and angiotensin II in smooth muscle cells results in phopholipase C (PLC) activation leading to the generation of the second messengers insitol trisphosphate (IP(3)) and diacylglycerol (DAG). IP(3) stimulates intracellular Ca(2+) release from the sarcoplasmic reticulum and DAG causes protein kinase C (PKC) activation. Additionally, different Ca(2+) entry channels, such as voltage-operated (VOC), receptor-operated (ROC), and store-operated (SOC) Ca(2+) channels, as well as Ca(2+)-permeable nonselective cation channels (NSCC), are involved in the elevation of intracellular Ca(2+) concentration. The elevation in intracellular Ca(2+) is transient and initiates contractile activity by a Ca(2+)-calmodulin interaction, stimulating myosin light chain (MLC) phosphorylation. When the Ca(2+) concentration begins to decline, Ca(2+)-sensitization of the contractile proteins is signaled by the RhoA/Rho-kinase pathway to inhibit the dephosphorylation of MLC phosphatase (MLCP) thereby maintaining force generation. Removal of Ca(2+) from the cytosol and stimulation of MLCP initiates the process of smooth muscle relaxation. In pathological conditions such as hypertension, alterations in these cellular signaling components can lead to an over stimulated state causing maintained vasoconstriction and blood pressure elevation.
Keywords: Rho-kinase; calcium channel; phosphoinositides; vasoactive peptides.