Myeloid Cell Glucocorticoid, Not Mineralocorticoid Receptor Signaling, Contributes to Salt-Sensitive Hypertension in Humans via Cortisol

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2024 Jun 12:2024.06.10.598374. doi: 10.1101/2024.06.10.598374.


Background: Salt sensitivity of blood pressure (SSBP) is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular morbidity and mortality, yet the etiology is poorly understood. We previously found that serum/glucocorticoid-regulated kinase 1 (SGK1) and epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs) regulate epithelial sodium channel (ENaC)-dependent sodium entry into monocyte-derived antigen-presenting cells (APCs) and activation of NADPH oxidase, leading to the formation of isolevuglandins (IsoLGs) in SSBP. Whereas aldosterone via the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) activates SGK1 leading to hypertension, our past findings indicate that levels of plasma aldosterone do not correlate with SSBP, and there is little to no MR expression in APCs. Thus, we hypothesized that cortisol acting via the glucocorticoid receptor (GR), not the MR in APCs mediates SGK1 actions to induce SSBP.

Methods: We performed cellular indexing of transcriptomes and epitopes by sequencing (CITE-Seq) analysis on peripheral blood mononuclear cells of humans rigorously phenotyped for SSBP using an inpatient salt loading/depletion protocol to determine expression of MR, GR, and SGK1 in immune cells. In additional experiments, we performed bulk transcriptomic analysis on isolated human monocytes following in vitro treatment with high salt from a separate cohort. We then measured urine and plasma cortisol, cortisone, renin, and aldosterone. Subsequently, we measured the association of these hormones with changes in systolic, diastolic, mean arterial pressure and pulse pressure as well as immune cell activation via IsoLG formation.

Results: We found that myeloid APCs predominantly express the GR and SGK1 with no expression of the MR. Expression of the GR in APCs increased after salt loading and decreased with salt depletion in salt-sensitive but not salt-resistant people and was associated with increased expression of SGK1. Moreover, we found that plasma and urine cortisol/cortisone but not aldosterone/renin correlated with SSBP and APCs activation via IsoLGs. We also found that cortisol negatively correlates with EETs.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that renal cortisol signaling via the GR but not the MR in APCs contributes to SSBP via cortisol. Urine and plasma cortisol may provide an important currently unavailable feasible diagnostic tool for SSBP. Moreover, cortisol-GR-SGK1-ENaC signaling pathway may provide treatment options for SSBP.

Keywords: Salt-sensitive hypertension; antigen-presenting cells; cortisol; glucocorticoid; monocytes.

Publication types

  • Preprint