The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2/angiotensin (1-7)/Mas axis protects the function of pancreatic β cells by improving the function of islet microvascular endothelial cells

Int J Mol Med. 2014 Nov;34(5):1293-300. doi: 10.3892/ijmm.2014.1917. Epub 2014 Aug 28.


In the diabetic state, the local rennin-angiotensin system (RAS) is activated in the pancreas, and is strongly associated with islet dysfunction. The angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2)/angiotensin (1-7) [Ang(1-7)]/Mas axis is a protective, negative regulator of the classical renin-angiotensin system. In this study, we assessed the role of the ACE2/Ang(1‑7)/Mas axis in pancreatic β cell survival and function. ACE2 knockout and wild-type mice were fed a high-fat diet for 16 weeks. We then performed terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated dUTP nick end-labeling (TUNEL) assays, and determined the expression levels of interleukin-1β (IL-1β) and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) in the pancreatic islets. The effects of Ang(1-7) or Mas receptor silencing on endothelial function were assessed in MS-1 cells. MIN6 cells were then co-cultured with the MS-1 cells to evaluate the effects of ACE2 on insulin secretion. The ACE2 knockout mice were more susceptible than the wild-type mice to high-fat diet-induced β cell dysfunction. The TUNEL-positive area of the pancreatic islets and the expression levels of IL-1β and iNOS were markedly increased in the ACE2 knockout mice compared with their wild-type littermates. The Mas-silenced MS-1 cells were more sensitive to palmitate-induced dysfunction and apoptosis in vitro. Ang(1-7) increased the activity of the Akt/endothelial NOS/nitric oxide (NO) pathway in the MS-1 cells, protected MIN6 cells against palmitate-induced apoptosis, and improved MIN6 insulin secretory function in the co-culture system. In conclusion, this study demonstrates that the ACE2/Ang(1-7)/Mas axis is a potential target for protecting the funcion of β cells by improving the function of islet microvascular endothelial cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Angiotensin I / genetics
  • Angiotensin I / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Diet, High-Fat
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Gene Silencing
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Insulin Secretion
  • Insulin-Secreting Cells / metabolism*
  • Interleukin-1beta / genetics
  • Interleukin-1beta / metabolism
  • Islets of Langerhans / cytology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II / metabolism
  • Peptide Fragments / genetics
  • Peptide Fragments / metabolism*
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / genetics
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A / metabolism*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / genetics
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Insulin
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Peptide Fragments
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled
  • proto-oncogene proteins c-mas-1
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Angiotensin I
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type II
  • Nos2 protein, mouse
  • Peptidyl-Dipeptidase A
  • angiotensin converting enzyme 2
  • angiotensin I (1-7)