The role of the brain renin-angiotensin system in hypertension: implications for new treatment

Prog Neurobiol. 2011 Oct;95(2):89-103. doi: 10.1016/j.pneurobio.2011.06.006. Epub 2011 Jul 7.


Hypertension affects 26% of adults and is in constant progress related to increased incidence of obesity and diabetes. One-third of hypertensive patients may be successfully treated with one antihypertensive agent, one-third may require two agents and in the remaining patients will need three agents for effective blood pressure (BP) control. The development of new classes of antihypertensive agents with different mechanisms of action therefore remains an important goal. Brain renin-angiotensin system (RAS) hyperactivity has been implicated in hypertension development and maintenance in several types of experimental and genetic hypertension animal models. Among the main bioactive peptides of the brain RAS, angiotensin (Ang) II and Ang III have similar affinities for type 1 (AT1) and type 2 (AT2) Ang II receptors. Following intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection, Ang II and Ang III similarly increase arginine-vasopressin (AVP) release and BP. Blocking the brain RAS may be advantageous as it simultaneously (1) decreases sympathetic tone and consequently vascular resistance, (2) decreases AVP release, reducing blood volume and vascular resistance and (3) blocks angiotensin-induced baroreflex inhibition, decreasing both vascular resistance and cardiac output. However, as Ang II is converted to Ang III in vivo, the exact nature of the active peptide is not precisely determined. We summarize here the main findings identifying AngIII as one of the major effector peptides of the brain RAS in the control of AVP release and BP. Brain AngIII exerts a tonic stimulatory effect on BP in hypertensive rats, identifying brain aminopeptidase A (APA), the enzyme generating brain Ang III, as a potentially candidate target for hypertension treatment. This has led to the development of potent orally active APA inhibitors, such as RB150--the prototype of a new class of centrally acting antihypertensive agents.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin III / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Angiotensin III / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Antihypertensive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Brain / drug effects
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Drug Resistance
  • Glutamyl Aminopeptidase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / drug therapy*
  • Hypertension / metabolism*
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins / metabolism
  • Neurons / drug effects
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Protease Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Renin-Angiotensin System* / drug effects


  • Antihypertensive Agents
  • Nerve Tissue Proteins
  • Protease Inhibitors
  • Angiotensin III
  • Glutamyl Aminopeptidase