The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) plays pivotal roles in the regulation of cardiovascular and renal functions to maintain the fluid and electrolyte homeostasis. Experimental studies have demonstrated a locally expressed RAS in the carotid body, which is functional significant in the effect of angiotensin peptides on the regulation of the activity of peripheral chemoreceptors and the chemoreflex. The physiological and pathophysiological implications of the RAS in the carotid body have been proposed upon recent studies showing a significant upregulation of the RAS expression under hypoxic conditions relevant to altitude acclimation and sleep apnea and also in animal model of heart failure. Specifically, the increased expression of angiotensinogen, angiotensin-converting enzyme and angiotensin AT1 receptors plays significant roles in the augmented carotid chemoreceptor activity and inflammation of the carotid body. This review aims to summarize these results with highlights on the pathophysiological function of the RAS under hypoxic conditions. It is concluded that the maladaptive changes of the RAS in the carotid body plays a pathogenic role in sleep apnea and heart failure, which could potentially be a therapeutic target for the treatment of the pathophysiological consequence of sleep apnea.
Keywords: AT1 receptor; OSA; angiotensin II; carotid body; intermittent hypoxia.