Pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) is associated with aberrant pulmonary vascular remodeling that leads to increased pulmonary artery pressure, pulmonary vascular resistance, and right ventricular dysfunction. There is now accumulating evidence that the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system is activated and contributes to cardiopulmonary remodeling that occurs in PAH. Increased plasma and lung tissue levels of angiotensin and aldosterone have been detected in experimental models of PAH and shown to correlate with cardiopulmonary hemodynamics and pulmonary vascular remodeling. These processes are abrogated by treatment with angiotensin receptor or mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists. At a cellular level, angiotensin and aldosterone activate oxidant stress signaling pathways that decrease levels of bioavailable nitric oxide, increase inflammation, and promote cell proliferation, migration, extracellular matrix remodeling, and fibrosis. Clinically, enhanced renin-angiotensin activity and elevated levels of aldosterone have been detected in patients with PAH, which suggests a role for angiotensin and mineralocorticoid receptor antagonists in the treatment of PAH. This review will examine the current evidence linking renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system activation to PAH with an emphasis on the cellular and molecular mechanisms that are modulated by aldosterone and may be of importance for the pathobiology of PAH.
Keywords: aldosterone; angiotensin II; mineralocorticoid receptor; pulmonary arterial hypertension; spironolactone.