Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is a condition of unknown etiology whose pathological features include increased vascular resistance, perivascular inflammatory cell infiltration and pulmonary arteriolar remodeling. Although risk factors for PAH are poorly defined, recent studies indicate that obesity may be an important risk factor for this condition. The mechanisms leading to this association are largely unknown, but bioactive mediators secreted from adipose tissue have been implicated in this process. One of the most important mediators released from adipose tissue is the adipokine adiponectin. Adiponectin is highly abundant in the circulation of lean healthy individuals, and possesses well-described metabolic and antiinflammatory actions. Levels of adiponectin decrease with increasing body mass, and low levels are directly linked to the development of PAH in mice. Moreover, overexpression of adiponectin has been shown to protect mice from developing PAH in response to inflammation and hypoxia. Based on the findings from these studies, it is suggested that the effects of adiponectin are mediated, in part, through its antiinflammatory and antiproliferative properties. In this review, we discuss the emerging evidence demonstrating a role for adiponectin in lung vascular homeostasis and discuss how deficiency in this adipocyte-derived hormone might explain the recent association between obesity and PAH.
Keywords: adipocyte; adipokine; inflammation; metabolism; treatment of pulmonary hypertension.