Macrophages in neuroinflammation: role of the renin-angiotensin-system
Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) catalyzes the conversion of the vasoconstrictor angiotensin II (ANG II) to the vasodilatory peptide angiotensin-(1-7) [ANG-(1-7)]. We showed that treatment of hypertensive rats with the AT(1) receptor antagonist olmesartan increased ACE2 mRNA and protein in the thoracic aorta, suggesting that endogenous ANG II tonically reduces the enzyme. We now report that ANG II downregulates ACE2 activity and mRNA in rat aortic vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) to reduce the conversion of ANG II to ANG-(1-7). Although ANG-(1-7) alone had no effect on the regulation of ACE2 mRNA, the heptapeptide prevented the ANG II-mediated reduction in ACE2 mRNA, an effect blocked by the selective ANG-(1-7) receptor antagonist [d-Ala(7)]-ANG-(1-7). The reduction in ACE2 mRNA by ANG II was also prevented by the mitogen-activated protein (MAP) kinase kinase inhibitor PD98059. Treatment of VSMCs with ANG II increased ERK1/ERK2 activity, which was significantly reduced by pretreatment with ANG-(1-7). Blockade of the ANG II-mediated reduction in ACE2 mRNA and increase in MAP kinase activity by ANG-(1-7) was prevented by pretreatment with sodium vanadate, a tyrosine phosphatase inhibitor, or okadaic acid, a serine-threonine phosphatase inhibitor, suggesting that the heptapeptide activates a MAP kinase phosphatase. This study is the first to show that the MAP kinase-phosphatase pathway is a primary molecular mechanism for regulating ACE2 to maintain the balance between ANG II and ANG-(1-7). The modulatory role of ANG-(1-7) in the regulation of ACE2 by ANG II suggests a complex interplay between the two peptides that is mediated by specific receptors to activate distinct signaling pathways.