Introduction: Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) are essential for maintaining vasculature homeostasis and function. By influence on its growth and activation both proinflammatory cytokines and peptides of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS) are potent regulators of VSMCs. Interestingly, angiotensin (Ang) II and Ang-(1-7) elicit opposite effects on VSMC activation, differentiation and proliferation. It has been suggested that statins, besides anti-inflammatory effects, may also modulate VSMC activation by their influence on the RAS.
Methods: The effect of atorvastatin on Ang I metabolism in a culture of explanted rat VSMCs was examined by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS); expression of mRNA of the main RAS enzymes in VSMC was assessed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Results: In VSMC culture Ang-(1-7) was identified as a major product of Ang I metabolism. In this setting, TNF-α (1 ng/ml) caused a decrease in the conversion of Ang I to Ang-(1-7). This effect was accompanied by a decrease of mRNA expression of neutral endopeptidase (NEP) and angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) and increase of mRNA of ACE. Interestingly, atorvastatin (3 μM) attenuated the effects of TNF-α on Ang-(1-7) production as well as reversed the influence of TNF-α on ACE and ACE2 expression.
Conclusions: Enhancement by atorvastatin of the ACE2/Ang-(1-7) axis in VSMCs could represent a new and beneficial mechanism on cardiovascular action of this widely used drug.
Keywords: Angiotensin; angiotensin converting enzyme; renin; statin; vascular smooth muscle cells.
© The Author(s) 2013.