Epithelial sodium channels in endothelial cells mediate diet-induced endothelium stiffness and impaired vascular relaxation in obese female mice

Metabolism. 2019 Oct;99:57-66. doi: 10.1016/j.metabol.2019.153946. Epub 2019 Jul 11.


Objective: Mineralocorticoid receptor activation of the epithelial sodium channel in endothelial cells (ECs) (EnNaC) is accompanied by aldosterone induced endothelial stiffening and impaired nitric oxide (NO)-mediated arterial relaxation. Recent data support enhanced activity of the alpha subunit of EnNaC (αEnNaC) mediates this aldosterone induced endothelial stiffening and associated endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) activation. There is mounting evidence that diet induced obesity diminishes expression and activation of AMP-activated protein kinase α (AMPKα), sirtuin 1 (Sirt1), which would be expected to lead to impaired downstream eNOS activation. Thereby, we posited that enhanced EnNaC activation contributes to diet induced obesity related increases in stiffness of the endothelium and diminished NO mediated vascular relaxation by increasing oxidative stress and related inhibition of AMPKα, Sirt1, and associated eNOS inactivation.

Materials/methods: Sixteen to twenty week-old αEnNaC knockout (αEnNaC-/-) and wild type littermate (EnNaC+/+) female mice were fed a mouse chow or an obesogenic western diet (WD) containing excess fat (46%) and fructose (17.5%) for 16 weeks. Sodium currents of ECs, endothelial stiffness and NO mediated aortic relaxation were examined along with indices of aortic oxidative stress, vascular remodeling and fibrosis.

Results: Enhanced EnNaC activation-mediated WD-induced increases in sodium currents in isolated lung ECs, increased endothelial stiffness and impaired aortic endothelium-dependent relaxation to acetylcholine (10-9-10-4 mol/L). These abnormalities occurred in conjunction with WD-mediated aortic tissue oxidative stress, inflammation, and decreased activation of AMPKα, Sirt1, and downstream eNOS were substantially mitigated in αEnNaC-/- mice. Importantly, αEnNaC-/- prevented WD induced increases in endothelial stiffness and related impairment of endothelium-dependent relaxation as well as aortic fibrosis and remodeling. However, EnNaC signaling was not involved in diet-induced abnormal expression of adipokines and CYP11b2 in abdominal aortic perivascular adipose tissue.

Conclusion: These data suggest that endothelial specific EnNaC activation mediates WD-induced endothelial stiffness, impaired eNOS activation, aortic fibrosis and remodeling through increased aortic oxidative stress and increased inflammation related to a reduction of AMPKα and Sirt 1 mediated eNOS phosphorylation/activation and NO production.

Keywords: Endothelial sodium channels; Endothelial stiffness; Fuel sensing kinases; Nitric oxide; Obesity; Oxidative stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Western
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism*
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels / genetics
  • Epithelial Sodium Channels / metabolism*
  • Epithelium / metabolism*
  • Epithelium / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III / metabolism
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Obesity / pathology*
  • Sirtuin 1 / metabolism
  • Vascular Stiffness / drug effects
  • Vasodilation


  • Epithelial Sodium Channels
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Nos3 protein, mouse
  • Sirt1 protein, mouse
  • Sirtuin 1