Posts Tagged ‘Endothelin Receptors’

Action of Hormones on the Circulation

Writer and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 




This is perhaps the most difficult piece to write, unexpectedly. I have done a careful search for related material using different search phrases.  It is perhaps because of the great complexity of the topic, which is inextricably linked to sepsis, the Systemic Inflammatory Response Syndrome SIRS), and is poised differently than the neural innervation of the hormonal response and circulation, as in the previous piece.  In the SIRS mechanism, we find a very large factor in glucocorticoids, the cytokine shower (IL-1, IL-6, TNF-α), and gluconeogenesis, with circulatory changes.  In this sequence, it appears that we are focused on the arteriolar and bronchial smooth muscle architecture, the adrenal medulla, vasoconstriction and vasodilation, and another set of peptide interactions.  This may be concurrent with the other effects described.

Related articles in Pharmaceutical Intelligence Journal:

Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease

Pathologist and Author: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

Clinical Trials Results for Endothelin System: Pathophysiological role in Chronic Heart Failure, Acute Coronary Syndromes and MI – Marker of Disease Severity or Genetic Determination?

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

Author and Curator of an Investigator Initiated Study: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

Curator of an Investigator Initiated Study: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of Agent Alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production

Curator and Investigator Initiated Study: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Innervation of Heart and Heart Rate

Writer and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

αllbβ3 Antagonists As An Example of Translational Medicine Therapeutics

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Reporter and curator

Cardiac Contractility & Myocardium Performance: Therapeutic Implications for Ryanopathy (Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction) and Catecholamine Responses

Author, and Content Consultant to e-SERIES A: Cardiovascular Diseases: Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC

The Centrality of Ca(2+) Signaling and Cytoskeleton Involving Calmodulin Kinases and Ryanodine Receptors in Cardiac Failure, Arterial Smooth Muscle, Post-ischemic Arrhythmia, Similarities and Differences, and Pharmaceutical Targets

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Ca2+-Stimulated Exocytosis:  The Role of Calmodulin and Protein Kinase C in Ca2+ Regulation of Hormone and Neurotransmitter

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP
Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Cardiac Contractility & Myocardium Performance: Ventricular Arrhythmias and Non-ischemic Heart Failure – Therapeutic Implications for Cardiomyocyte Ryanopathy (Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction) and Catecholamine Responses

Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Disruption of Calcium Homeostasis: Cardiomyocytes and Vascular Smooth Muscle Cells: The Cardiac and Cardiovascular Calcium Signaling Mechanism

Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Calcium-Channel Blockers, Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction (Ryanopathy) and Calcium as Neurotransmitter Sensor

Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC, Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Synaptotagmin functions as a Calcium Sensor: How Calcium Ions Regulate the fusion of vesicles with cell membranes during Neurotransmission

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Advanced Topics in Sepsis and the Cardiovascular System at its End Stage

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP

For most comprehensive Bibliography on the Ryanodine receptor calcium release channel complex and for FIGURES illustrating the phenomenon, see

Pharmacol Ther. 2009 August; 123(2): 151–177.

PMCID: PMC2704947

Ryanodine receptor-mediated arrhythmias and sudden cardiac death

Lynda M. Blayney[low asterisk] and F. Anthony Lai

Oxidized Calcium Calmodulin Kinase and Atrial Fibrillation

Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Contributions to cardiomyocyte interactions and signaling

Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP  and Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Cardiac Contractility & Myocardium Performance: Therapeutic Implications for Ryanopathy (Calcium Release-related Contractile Dysfunction) and Catecholamine Responses

Editor: Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC, Author and Curator: Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, and Article Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

The Centrality of Ca(2+) Signaling and Cytoskeleton Involving Calmodulin Kinases and Ryanodine Receptors in Cardiac Failure, Arterial Smooth Muscle, Post-ischemic Arrhythmia, Similarities and Differences, and Pharmaceutical Targets

Larry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP, Justin Pearlman, MD, PhD, FACC and Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

 Action of hormones on the circulation

Limbic system mechanisms of stress regulation: Hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical axis

James P. Herman, Michelle M. Ostrander, Nancy K. Muelle, Helmer Figueiredo
Prog in Neuro-Psychopharmacol & Biol Psychiatry 29 (2005) 1201 – 1213

Limbic dysfunction and hypothalamo-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis dysregulation are key features of affective disorders. The following review summarizes our current understanding of the relationship between limbic structures and control of ACTH and glucocorticoid release, focusing on the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala. In general, the hippocampus and anterior cingulate/prelimbic cortex inhibit stress-induced HPA activation, whereas the amygdala and perhaps the infralimbic cortex may enhance glucocorticoid secretion. Several characteristics of limbic–HPA interaction are notable: first, in all cases, the role of given limbic structures is both region- and stimulus-specific. Second, limbic sites have minimal direct projections to HPA effector neurons of the paraventricular nucleus (PVN); hippocampal, cortical and amygdalar efferents apparently relay with neurons in the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, hypothalamus and brainstem to access corticotropin releasing hormone neurons. Third, hippocampal, cortical and amygdalar projection pathways show extensive overlap in regions such as the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, hypothalamus and perhaps brainstem, implying that limbic information may be integrated at subcortical relay sites prior to accessing the PVN. Fourth, these limbic sites also show divergent projections, with the various structures having distinct subcortical targets. Finally, all regions express both glucocorticoid and mineralocorticoid receptors, allowing for glucocorticoid modulation of limbic signaling patterns. Overall, the influence of the limbic system on the HPA axis is likely the end result of the overall patterning of responses to given stimuli and glucocorticoids, with the magnitude of the secretory response determined with respect to the relative contributions of the various structures.

representations of the HPA axis

representations of the HPA axis

Diagrammatic representations of the HPA axis of the rat. HPA responses are initiated by neurosecretory neurons of medial parvocellular paraventricular nucleus (mpPVN), which secretes ACTH secretagogues such as corticotropin releasing hormone (CRH) and arginine vasopressin (AVP) in the hypophysial portal circulation at the level of the median eminence. These secretagogues promote release of ACTH into the systemic circulation, whereby it promotes synthesis and release of glucocorticoids at the adrenal cortex.

When exposed to chronic stress, the HPA axis can show both response Fhabituation_ and response Ffacilitation_. FHabituation_ occurs when the same (homotypic) stressor is delivered repeatedly, and is characterized by progressive diminution of glucocorticoid responses to the stimulus. Systemic administration of a mineralocorticoid receptor antagonist is sufficient to block habituation, implying a role for MR signaling in this process. It should be noted that HPA axis habituation is highly dependent on both the intensity and predictability of the stressful stimulus. FFacilitation_ is observed when animals repeatedly exposed to one stimulus are presented with a novel (heterotypic). In chronically stressed animals, exposure to a novel stimulus results in rise in glucocorticoids that is as large as or greater than that seen in a chronic stress naıve animal. Importantly, facilitation can occur in the context of chronic stress-induced elevations in resting glucocorticoids levels, suggesting that this process involves a bypass or override of negative feedback signals.

Hippocampal regulation of the HPA axis appears to be both region- and stressor-specific. Using a sequential lesion approach, our group has noted that the inhibitory effects of the hippocampus on stress-induced corticosterone release and CRH/AVP mRNA expression are likely subserved by neurons resident in the ventral subiculum-caudotemporal CA1. In addition to spatial specificity, hippocampal regulation of the HPA axis also appears to be specific to certain stress modalities; our studies indicate that ventral subiculum lesions cause elevated glucocorticoid secretion following restraint, open field or elevated plus maze exposure, but not to ether inhalation or hypoxia.

The research posits an intricate topographical organization of prefrontal cortex output to HPA regulatory circuits. The anatomy of medial prefrontal cortex efferents may illuminate this issue. The infralimbic cortex projects extensively to the anterior bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, medial and central amygdala and the nucleus of the solitary tract, all of which are implicated in stress excitation. In contrast, the prelimbic cortex has minimal input to these structures, but projects to the ventrolateral preoptic area, dorsomedial hypothalamus and peri-PVN region, areas implicated in stress inhibition. Thus, the infralimbic and prelimbic/anterior cingulate components of the prefrontal cortex may play very different roles in HPA axis regulation. Like other limbic regions, the influence of the amygdala on the HPA axis is stressor- and region-specific. The medial amygdala shows intense c-fos induction following stressors such as restraint, swimming, predator exposure and social interaction.

Despite the prominent involvement of the hippocampus, medial prefrontal cortex and amygdala in HPA axis regulation, there is limited evidence of direct innervation of the PVN by these structures. Rather, these regions appear to project to a number of basal forebrain, hypothalamic and brainstem cell populations that in turn innervate the medial parvocellular PVN. Thus, in order to access principle stress effector neurons, information from the limbic system requires an intermediary synapse. In the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis and hypothalamus, the majority of these intermediary neurons are GABAergic. For example, the bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, ventrolateral preoptic area, dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus and peri-PVN region all contain rich populations of neurons expressing the GABA marker glutamatic acid decarboxylase (GAD) 65/67.

The organization of the peri-PVN cell groups is particularly interesting. In the case of the ventral subiculum and to a lesser extent, the medial prefrontal cortex, terminal fields can be observed in the immediate surround of the PVN, corresponding to areas containing substantial numbers of GABA neurons. Importantly, dendrites of PVN neurons are largely confined within the nucleus proper, indicating that limbic afferents are unlikely to interact directly with the PVN neurons themselves. The peri-PVN GABA neurons are activated by glutamate, and likely express glutamate receptor subunits. These neurons also up-regulate GAD65 mRNA following chronic stress, commensurate with involvement in long-term HPA regulation. Injections of a general ionotroptic glutamate receptor antagonist into the PVN surround potentiates glucocorticoid responses to restraint, consistent with blockade of glutamate excitation of these GABA neurons. The data are consistent with an interaction between the excitatory limbic structures and inhibitory PVN-regulatory cells at the level of the PVN surround.

Brainstem stress-modulatory pathways likely relay excitatory information to the PVN. For example, the nucleus of the solitary tract provides both catecholaminergic (norepinephrine) and non-catecholaminergic (e.g., glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1) input to the medial parvocellular. Norepinephrine is released into the PVN following stress and is believed to activate CRH neurons via alpha-1 adrenergic receptors. The role of this pathway is thought to be associated with systemic stressors, as selective destruction of PVN norepinephrine input using anti-dopamine beta hydroxylase-saporin conjugate blocks responses to 2-deoxy-glucose but not restraint.  In contrast, blockade of central GLP-1 receptors using exendin 9–36 markedly inhibits responsiveness to both lithium chloride and novelty, suggesting that this non-catecholaminergic cell population may play a more general role in stress integration.

The existence of these putative two-neuron circuits lends important insight into the nature of stress information processing. Anatomical data support the hypothesis that the vast majority of medial prefrontal cortex and ventral subicular inputs to subcortical stress relays are glutamate-containing. As can be appreciated, pyramidal cells of the medial prefrontal cortex and subiculum richly express mRNA encoding vesicular glutamate transporter-1 (VGlut1), a specific marker of glutamate neurons. Combined retrograde tracing/in situ hybridization studies performed in our lab indicate that the vast majority of cortical and hippocampal afferents to PVN-projecting regions (e.g., bed nucleus of the stria terminalis, dorsomedial hypothalamus, ventrolateral medial preoptic area) indeed contain VGlut1, verifying a glutamatergic input to these areas. In contrast, the majority of amygdalar areas implicated in stress regulation express glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) 65 or 67 mRNA, suggesting a GABAergic phenotype; indeed, the vast majority of medial and central amygdaloid projections to PVN relays are GABAergic.

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus

Diagrammatic representations of limbic stress-integrative pathways from the prefrontal cortex, amygdala and hippocampus. The medial prefrontal cortex (mPFC) subsumes neurons of the prelimbic (pl), anterior cingulate (ac) and infralimbic cortices (il), which appear to have different actions on the HPA axis stress response. The pl/ac send excitatory projections (designated as dark circles, filled line with arrows) to regions such as the peri-PVN zone and bed nucleus of the stria terminalis (BST), both of which send direct GABAergic projections to the medial parvocellular PVN (delineated as open circles, dotted lines ending in squares). This two-neuron chain is likely to be inhibitory in nature. In contrast, the infralimbic cortex projects to regions such as the nucleus of the solitary tract (NTS), which sends excitatory projections to the PVN, implying a means of PVN excitation from this cortical region. The ventral subiculum (vSUB) sends excitatory projections to numerous subcortical regions, including the posterior BST, peri-PVN region, ventrolateral region of the medial preoptic area (vlPOA) and ventrolateral region of the dorsomedial hypothalamic nucleus (vlDMH), all of which send GABAergic projections to the PVN and are likely to communicate transsynaptic inhibition. The medial amygdaloid nucleus (MeA) sends inhibitory projections to GABAergic PVN-projecting populations, such as the BST, vlPOA and peri-PVN, eliciting a transsynaptic disinhibition. A similar arrangement likely exists for the central amygdaloid nucleus (CeA), which sends GABAergic outflow to the ventrolateral BST and to a lesser extent, the vlDMH. The CeA also projects to GABAergic neurons in the NTS, which may disinhibit ascending projections to the PVN.

Inotropes and vasopressors: more than haemodynamics!

Hendrik Bracht, E Calzia, M Georgieff,  J Singer, P Radermacher and JA Russell
British Journal of Pharmacology (2012) 165 2009–2011

Circulatory shock is characterized by arterial hypotension requiring fluid resuscitation combined with inotropes and/or vasopressors to correct the otherwise life-threatening impairment of oxygen supply to peripheral tissues. Catecholamines represent the current therapeutic choice, but this standard is only based on empirical clinical experience. Although there is evidence that some catecholamines may be better than others, it is a matter of debate which one may be the most effective and/or the safest for the different situations. In their review in this issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology, Bangash et al. provide an overview of the pharmacology as well as the available clinical data on the therapeutic use of endogenous catecholamines, their synthetic derivatives and a range of other agents (vasopressin and its analogues, PDE inhibitors and levosimendan). The authors point out that, despite well-established receptor pharmacology, the clinical effects of these treatments are poorly understood. Hence, further investigations are essential to determine which catecholamine, or, in a broader sense, which alternative vasopressor and/or inotrope is the most appropriate for a particular clinical condition.

LINKED ARTICLES   This article is a commentary on Bangash et al., pp. 2015–2033 of this issue and is commented on by De Backer and Scolletta, pp. 2012–2014 of this issue. To view Bangash et al. visit   and to view De Backer and Scolletta visit

In the present issue of the British Journal of Pharmacology, Bangash et al. (2012) review the pharmacology as well as the available clinical data on the therapeutic use of various inotropes and vasopressor agents used for the hemodynamic management of (septic) shock. By definition, circulatory shock is characterized by arterial hypotension that necessitates immediate intervention to maintain the balance of tissue oxygen supply and demand. In practice, the longer and the more frequent periods of hypotension are present in a patient, the less likely is survival, and early aggressive resuscitation is associated with improved outcome. Besides fluid administration to increase the circulating blood volume, in most cases, vasoactive drugs are required to restore an adequate perfusion pressure, and up to now, catecholamines represent the current therapeutic choice. According to their pharmacological profile, catecholamines are traditionally used for their predominant inotropic, vasodilating or constrictor effects.

Clinicians should not forget two fundamental aspects of catecholamine action. First, because of the ubiquitous presence of adrenoceptors, endogenous catecholamines. as well as their synthetic derivatives, have pronounced effects on virtually all tissues (many of which were described several years ago), in particular on the immune system (van der Poll et al., 1996; Flierl et al., 2008), on energy metabolism (Cori and Cori, 1928; Bearn et al., 1951) and on gastrointestinal motility (McDougal and West, 1954). Second, the adrenoceptor density and responsiveness to catecholamines are markedly altered by both the underlying disease and the ongoing catecholamine. Bangash et al. (2012) have to be commended that they not only describe the various endogenous catecholamines and their synthetic derivatives but also thoroughly discuss possible alternatives, such as vasopressin and its analogues, PDE inhibitors and levosimendan.

Inhibitory effects of cortisone and hydrocortisone on human Kv1.5 channel currents

Jing Yu, Mi-Hyeong Park, Su-Hyun Jo
Eur J Pharmacol 746 (2015) 158–166

Glucocorticoids are the primary hormones that respond to stress and protect organisms from dangerous situations. The glucocorticoids hydrocortisone and its dormant form, cortisone, affect the cardiovascular system with changes such as increased blood pressure and cardioprotection. Kv1.5 channels play a critical role in the maintenance of cellular membrane potential and are widely expressed in pancreatic β-cells, neurons, myocytes, and smooth muscle cells of the pulmonary vasculature. We examined the electrophysiological effects of both cortisone and hydrocortisone on human Kv1.5 channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes using a two-microelectrode voltage clamp technique. Both cortisone and hydrocortisone rapidly and irreversibly suppressed the amplitude of Kv1.5 channel current with IC50 values of 50.2 + 74.2 μM and 33.4 + 73.2 μM, respectively, while sustained the current trace shape of Kv1.5 current. The inhibitory effect of cortisone on Kv1.5 decreased progressively from – 10mV to +30 mV, while hydrocortisone’s inhibition of the channel did not change across the same voltage range. Both cortisone and hydrocortisone blocked Kv1.5 channel currents in a non-use-dependent manner and neither altered the channel’s steady-state activation or inactivation curves. These results show that cortisone and hydrocortisone inhibited Kv1.5 channel currents differently. Kv1.5 channels were more sensitive to hydrocortisone than to cortisone.

In conclusion, cortisone and hydrocortisones rapidly and irreversibly blocked human Kv1.5 channels expressed in Xenopus oocytes in a closed state without altering activation and inactivation gating. These data provide a possible mechanism for GC effects on the cardiovascular system. The detailed mechanism of the interaction between GCs and human Kv1.5 channels merits further exploration.

Inflammasome and cytokine blocking strategies in autoinflammatory disorders

Monika Moll, Jasmin B. Kuemmerle-Deschner
Clinical Immunology (2013) 147, 242–275

Autoinflammatory disorders are characterized by usually unprovoked recurrent episodes of features of inflammation caused by activation of the innate immune system. Many autoinflammatory disorders – the monogenetic defects in particular – are associated with alterations of inflammasomes. Inflammasomes are complex multimolecular structures, which respond to “danger” signals by activation of cytokines. Among these, IL-1 is the key player of the innate immune response and inflammation. Consequently, IL-1 blocking strategies are specific pathway targeting therapies in autoinflammatory diseases and applied in CAPS, colchicine-resistant FMF, TRAPS, HIDS and DIRA. A number of rare genetic disorders involve inflammasome malfunction resulting in enhanced inflammatory response. IL-1 inhibition to date is the most successful specific therapy in autoinflammatory disorders. Here, current treatment strategies in autoinflammatory disorders are reviewed with a focus on inflammasome and cytokine inhibition.

Autoinflammatory disorders have been defined as “clinical disorders marked by abnormally increased inflammation, mediated predominantly by the cells and molecules of the innate immune system.”  This means that in autoinflammatory disorders autoantibodies or antigen related T-cells are usually absent. These are features of the adaptive immune system and found in autoimmune diseases.
In general, autoinflammatory disorders are characterized by a large spectrum of rather non-specific systemic and organ-specific signs and symptoms of inflammation. In some diseases specific symptoms are observed like hearing loss in Muckle–Wells syndrome or CNS-disease in NOMID/CINCA. Most autoinflammatory disorders are associated with high levels of serum amyloid A (SAA) during inflammatory attacks and high risk of life-threatening amyloidosis. In most cases the disease will start in infancy and childhood. Only rarely primary manifestations in adulthood are reported.
Because recurrent fevers have been the most prominent feature of this group of diseases, historically they have been summarized under the term “hereditary periodic fever syndromes”.  With the deeper understanding of the underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms on the genetic and cellular level, the more comprehensive term “autoinflammatory syndromes”.
Along with the detection of the genetic origin of the autoinflammatory disorders, the cellular pathomechanism leading to the resulting inflammation has been described. A number of genes, which are affected by mutations in autoinflammatory disorders, encode proteins forming intracellular complexes called inflammasomes. External and endogenous “dangers” are recognized by these “danger sensors” and are able to induce an inflammatory reaction. Microbial components from infectious agents such as LPS, flagellin, lipoteichoic acid from bacteria, peptidoglycan or double-stranded DNA from viruses, or inorganic crystalline structures such as uric acid crystals, display pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs). These and endogenous damage-associated molecular patterns (DAMPs) like heat-shock proteins, the chromatin-associated protein high-mobility group box 1 (HMGB1), hyaluronan fragments, ATP, uric acid, and DNA which are released with cellular waste and injury stimulate the inflammasome. Also, the myeloid related proteins MRP8 and 14 (also known as S100A8 and S100A9) which are used as biomarkers, belong to the group of DAMPs. In addition to PAMPs and DAMPs, the inflammasome may interact with and be stimulated by proteins such as pyrin, proline–serine–threonine phosphatase interacting protein 1 (PSTPIP1), mevalonate kinase (MK) and NLRP7. All of these may also be altered in structure and function by monogenetic mutations.
As a consequence of inflammasome activation, a large variety of cytokines are produced and released by cells of the innate immune system (monocytes, macrophages, dendritic cells). They include the IL-1 family (IL-1, IL-18, IL-33), the TNF family (TNF-α, LT-α), the IL-6 family (IL-6, IL-11), the IL-17 family (IL-17A, IL-25), and type 1 IFNs (IFN-α, IFN-β). These cytokines play redundant roles depending on the cause and pathway of inflammation in the respective disease. Therefore, therapeutic strategies targeting only one cytokine should be expected to be inadequate to treat inflammatory disorders. However, improvement observed in diabetes mellitus Type 2 after blockade of IL-1 indicates that targeting one cytokine, even in a polygenic, complex inflammatory disorder, may cause beneficial effects. Regarding the inflammatory pathogenesis involved in the disease, Goldbach–Mansky and co-workers have classified the monogenetic autoinflammatory disorders as IL-1 mediated (CAPS and DIRA), partially IL-1 mediated (FMF, HIDS, PAPA) and mediated by other pathways (TRAPS, Blau-syndrome, Majeed’s syndrome, cherubism and IL-10 receptor deficiency).

Intracellular signaling pathways and therapeutic targets in autoinflammatory diseases. In autoinflammatory diseases, complex intracellular pathways lead to activation of the inflammatory response, particularly IL-1β activation and release, but also induction of NFκB and TNFα. Several mechanisms may activate the inflammasome, one crucial step in the IL-1 pathway. These include DAMPs (1), K+-efflux (2), activation of ROS (3) by ATP, anorganic crystals, membrane perturbation and proteases which are released from lysosomes damaged by β-amyloid, and heat shock proteins (4). NFκB may be induced by PAMPs via toll like receptors (5), IL-1β-signaling (6) or UPR (7). Activated NFκB eventually leads to the release of pro-inflammatory cytokines like IL-1, IL-6 and TNFα (8). Most of these steps to activation have been identified as targets for anti-inflammatory therapies, which are either already used in clinical practice or still experimental. IL-1- (a), TNF- (b), and IL-6 (c) inhibition are established safe and effective treatment strategies in many autoinflammatory diseases. Thalidomide (d) probably inhibits activation of IκB and is also part of routine treatment. Still experimental strategies include inhibition of PAMPs (e), DAMPs (f), potassium efflux (g), ROS by antioxidants (h), heat shock proteins (i), or caspase-1 (k). Caspase-inhibitors have entered clinical trials.

Colchicine has been used for the treatment of inflammatory disorders for centuries. Colchicine is effective in gout, but also in Behcet’s disease and FMF, where it is able to prevent amyloidosis. The drug affects many cell types and accumulates preferentially in neutrophils. Although its mode of action is still unclear it has microtubule destabilizing properties which may be part of its effects. Additional effects such as alteration of adhesion molecule expression, chemotaxis, and ROS generation also impact inflammation. Colchicine is generally tolerated well. However gastrointestinal, hematologic, and neuromuscular side-effects occur, when the administered dose is too high.

Inflammasome activation by heat shock proteins may be prevented by direct inhibition of HSP. HSP90 inhibition was effective in reducing gout-like arthritis in an animal model. Targeting caspase-1 (caspase-1-inhibitors) may be a strategy which has even greater potential in the treatment of autoimmune diseases and autoinflammatory disorders. IL-1 converting enzyme/caspase inhibitor VX-765 was able to inhibit IL-β-secretion in LPS-stimulated cells from FCAS and control subjects. A new IL-1 inhibitor, gevokizumab or Xoma 052 has entered clinical pilot trials. Therapeutic targets particularly for the protein-misfolding autoinflammatory diseases could be chemical chaperones and drugs that stimulate autophagy. Also inhibiting the signaling molecules that mediate the UPR activation which causes activation of the innate immune system and exacerbate inflammation could be a target.

To date IL-1 blockade is the most effective therapy in most monogenetic autoinflammatory diseases — in intrinsic and in extrinsic inflammasom-opathies. The most favorable effects are seen in the treatment of cryopyrin associated periodic syndromes like FACS, MWS and CINCA. But IL-1-blockade is also effective in other diseases like DIRA, TRAPS, PFAPA, colchicine-resistant FMF etc. IL-1 inhibition also has a role in multifactorial and common autoinflammatory diseases like diabetes, gout and artherosclerosis.

Endothelin—Biology and disease

Al-karim Khimji, Don C. Rockey
Cellular Signalling 22 (2010) 1615–1625

Endothelins are important mediators of physiological and pathophysiologic processes including cardiovascular disorders, pulmonary disease, renal diseases and many others. Additionally, endothelins are involved in many other important processes such as development, cancer biology, wound healing, and even neurotransmission. Here, we review the cell and molecular biology as well as the prominent pathophysiological aspects of the endothelin system.

Endothelin-1 (ET-1) was originally isolated from porcine aortic endothelial cells  and is a 21 amino acid cyclic peptide, with two disulphide bridges joining the cysteine amino acids (positions 1–15 and 3–11) at the N-terminal end and hydrophobic amino acids at the c-terminal end of the peptide (Fig. 1). The C-terminal end contains the amino acids that bind to the receptor, the N-terminal end determines the peptide’s binding affinity to the receptor (see Fig. 1). There appear to be at least 2 other endothelin isoforms including endothelin-2 (ET-2) and endothelin-3 (ET-3), which differ from ET-1 in two and six amino acid residues, respectively.

Endothelin (ET) structure

Endothelin (ET) structure

Endothelin (ET) structure. Endothelin is a 21 amino acid cyclic peptide, with two disulphide bridges joining the cysteine residues at positions 1–15 and 3–11. The C-terminal end containsamino acids that appear tomediate receptor binding,while the N-terminal residues determine the peptide’s binding affinity to the receptor. The amino acids highlighted in black in panels (b) and (c) show differences in ET-2 and ET-3 compared to ET-1. As can be seen, the remainder of the primary sequence of the different family members is identical.

Endothelin-1 biosynthetic pathway

Endothelin-1 biosynthetic pathway

Endothelin-1 biosynthetic pathway. Preproendothelin mRNA is synthesized via transcriptional activation of the preproendothelin gene. The translational product is a 203-amino acid peptide known as preproendothelin, which is cleaved at dibasic sites by furin-like endopeptidases to form big endothelins. These biologically inactive, 37- to 41-amino acid intermediates, are cleaved at Trp21–Val 22 by a family of endothelin-converting enzymes (ECE) to produce mature ET-1. The pathway for endothelin-2 and -3 is presumed to be similar.

The endothelin peptides are produced through a set of complex molecular processes. Preproendothelins are synthesized via transcriptional activation of the preproendothelin gene, which is regulated by c-fos and c-jun, nuclear factor-1, AP-1 and GATA-2. The translational product is a 203-amino acid peptide known as preproendothelin which is cleaved at dibasic sites by furin-like endopeptidases to form big endothelins. These biologically inactive 37- to 41-amino acid intermediates are cleaved at Trp21–Val 22 by a family of endothelin-converting enzymes (ECE) to produce mature ET-1.

Three isoforms of ECE have been reported, namely ECE-1, ECE-2 and ECE-3; ECE-1 and ECE-2 are most prominent. (Endothelin receptors are widely distributed in many different tissues and cells, there is a marked difference in cell and tissue distribution patterns between the two receptor subtypes i.e. ETA and ETB. [ET Receptors: Endothelial cells -ETB Vascular tone, clearance of circulating ET-1]).  ECEs belong to the M13 group of proteins—which is a family that includes neutral endopeptidases, kell blood group antigens (Kell), a peptide from phosphate regulating gene (PEX), X-converting enzyme (XCE), “secreted” endopeptidases, and the ECEs. M13 family members contain type II integral membrane proteins with zinc metalloprotease activity, and their function is inhibited by phosphoramidon. Four variants of ECE-1 have been reported in humans, namely ECE-1a, ECE-1b, ECE-1c and ECE-1d which are a result of alternate splicing of ECE-1mRNA. ECE-1 appears to be localized in the plasma cell membrane and its optimal activity is atpH7; it processes big ETs both intracellularly and on the cell surface. It is distributed predominantly in smooth muscle cells. ECE-1 can also hydrolyze other proteins including bradykinin, substance P, and insulin. ECE-2 is localized to the trans-Golgi network and is expressed abundantly in neural tissues and endothelial cells. Its optimal activity is at pH5; the acidic activity marks ECE-2 as an intracellular enzyme. Substrate selectivity experiments indicate that both ECE-1 and ECE-2 show preference for big ET-1 over big ET-2 or big ET-3.

Although there has been controversy about the precise repertoire of endothelin receptors, it appears that the endothelins exert their actions through two major receptor subtypes known as ETA and ETB receptors. ETA and ETB receptors belong to the superfamily of G-protein coupled receptors and contain seven transmembrane domains of 22–26 hydrophobic amino acids among approximately 400 total amino acids. The ETA receptor is found predominantly in smooth muscle cells and cardiac muscles, whereas the ETB receptor is abundantly expressed in endothelial cells.

ET-1 signaling is extremely complicated and ET receptor activation leads to diverse cellular responses through interaction in a chain of pathways that includes the G-protein-activated cell surface receptor, coupling G-proteins and phospholipase (PLC) pathway and other G protein-activated effectors. In one of the canonical signaling pathways, ETA induced activation of phospholipase C leads to the formation of inositol triphosphate and diacylglcerol from phosphatidylinositol. Inositol 1,4,5 triphosphate (IP3) then diffuses to specific receptors on the endoplasmic reticulum and releases stored Ca2+ into the cytosol. This causes a rapid elevation in intracellular Ca2+, which in turn causes cellular contraction and then vasoconstriction; the vasoconstrictive effects of ET persist despite dissociation of ET-1 from the receptor, perhaps because the levels of intracellular calcium remain elevated or because endothelin signaling pathways remain activated for prolonged time periods.

Endothelin signaling – smooth muscle cells

Endothelin signaling – smooth muscle cells

Endothelin signaling – smooth muscle cells. ET receptor stimulation leads to diverse cellular responses in a chain of pathways that include the G protein bg activation. This is followed by activation of a variety of different downstream cascades. For example, shown on the left, ETA induced activation of phosphatidyl inositol specific phospholipase C (PI-PLC) leads to the formation of inositol triphosphate (IP3) and diacylglcerol (DAG) from phosphoinositol 4,5 bisphosphate (PIP2). Inositol 1, 4, 5 triphosphate (IP3) then diffuses to specific receptors on the endoplasmic reticulum and releases stored Ca2+ into the cytosol. This causes a rapid elevation in intracellular Ca2+, which in turn causes cellular contraction

Endothelin signaling – endothelial cells.

Endothelin signaling – endothelial cells.

Endothelin signaling – endothelial cells. ET-1 stimulates NO production in endothelial cells by activation of endothelial cell NO synthase (eNOS). This occurs via ET-1’s activation of the ET-B receptor and the PI3-K/Akt pathway, which in turn stimulates phosphorylation of eNOS, with subequent conversion of L-arginine to L-citrulline and at the same time, generating NO. In addition shear stress, G-protein coupled receptors (GPCR), transient receptor potential channel (TRPC) and receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) are also activators of eNOS. As a result, NO diffuses to stellate cell, where it directly activates the heme moiety of soluble guanylate cyclase, leading to the production of cyclic GMP. Intracellular cyclic GMP leads to activation of protein kinase G (PKG) resulting in relaxation of stellate cells – offsetting ET’s contractile effect on stellate cells.

The plasma levels of endothelin do not correlate with either the presence of essential hypertension or its severity, presumably, due to the fact that endothelin appears to be biologically active in a paracrine or autocrine fashion (i.e., rather than in an endocrine fashion. Systemic administration of ET-1 in low doses produces a modest increase in blood pressure which is normalized by selective ETA receptor blockade. In experimental models, long-term infusion with ET-1 leads to stroke and renal injury, which can be prevented with long-term administration of selective ETA receptor antagonists. Apart from its direct vasoconstrictor effects, mediated by smooth muscle cell contraction in the arterial system, ET-1 also indirectly enhances the vasoconstrictor effects of other neurohumoral and endocrine factors and may potentiate essential hypertension via this mechanism. For example, ET-1 induces conversion of angiotensin I to angiotensin II in in vitro models and stimulates adrenal synthesis of epinephrine and aldosterone. Thus there is cross-talk between the endothelin and renin–angiotensin–aldosterone systems—to synergistically act to facilitate vasoconstriction. In aggregate, the data suggest that dysregulation of the endothelin system contributes to multisystem complications of hypertension such as progressive renal disease, cerebrovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, and cardiac disease.

ET-1 in the renal system is synthesized in vascular endothelial cells and epithelial cells of the collecting ducts. Both ET receptors are present in renal vasculature and epithelial cells where ETB is the predominant receptor type. Renal vasculature is relatively more sensitive to the vasoconstrictive effects of ET-1 than any other vasculature and it causes constriction of both afferent and efferent renal arterioles.

ET-1 administration in humans significantly reduces renal blood flow, glomerular filtration rate and urine volume. In addition to its hemodynamic effects, ET-1 system is also involved in salt and water reabsorption, acid-base balance, promotion of mesangial cell growth and activation of inflammatory cells. ET-1 has been implicated in the pathophysiology of acute renal injury, chronic renal failure as well as renal remodeling. Transgenic mice overexpressing ET-1 develop glomerulosclerosis, interstitial fibrosis and reduced renal function. Increased ET-1 and ET receptor upregulation has been described in various animal models of acute renal injury and also in patients with chronic renal failure. Additionally, plasma ET-1 levels have been shown to correlate with the severity of chronic renal failure.

ET-1 is produced and released by airway epithelial cells, macrophages, and pulmonary vascular endothelial cells. Endothelin receptors are similarly widely distributed in airway smooth muscle cells, the pulmonary vasculature, and in the autonomic neuronal network lining tracheal muscles. ET-1 has a potent bronchoconstrictor effect.  In animal models, intravenous ET-1 injection led to a dose-dependent increase in airway resistance. The increase in airway resistance is in part due to enhanced production of thromboxanes with subsequent activation of thromboxane receptors and smooth muscle cell proliferation. The ET system has been emphasized in a number of pulmonary disorders, including asthma, cryptogenic fibrosing alveolitis, and pulmonary hypertension. Increased lung vasculature ET-1 immunoreactivity has been reported in both animals and patients with pulmonary hypertension and increases in ET-1 immunoreactivity correlate with the degree of pulmonary vascular resistance, disorders such as pulmonary hypertension, myocardial infarction, heart failure, neoplasia, vascular disorders, wound healing, and many others.

Endothelin and endothelin antagonism: Roles in cardiovascular health and disease

Praveen Tamirisa, William H. Frishman, and Anil Kumar
Am Heart J 1995;130:601-10

Endothelin is a naturally occurring polypeptide substance with potent vasoconstrictive actions. It was originally described as endotensin or endothelial contracting factor in 1985 by Hickey et al., who reported on the finding of a potent stable vasoconstricting substance produced by cultured endothelial cells. Subsequently, Yanagisawa et al. isolated and purified the substance from the supernatant of cultured porcine aortic and endothelial
cells and then went on to prepare its complementary deoxyribonucleic acid (cDNA). This substance was renamed endothelin.

Endothelin is the most potent vasoconstrictor known to date. Its chemical structure is closely related to certain neurotoxins (sarafotoxins) produced by scorpions and the burrowing asp (Atractaspis engaddensis).  Endothelins have now been isolated in various cell lines from several organisms. They are now considered to be autocoids or cytokines 4 because of their wide distribution, their expression during ontogeny and adult life, their primary role as intracellular factors, and the complexity of their biologic effects.

The superfamily of endothelins and sarafotoxins have two main branches with four members each. Endothelin is a polypeptide consisting of 21 amino acids. There are three closely related isoforms endothelin-1, endothelin-2, and endothelin-3 (ET1, ET2, and ET3, respectively), which differ in a few of the amino acid constituents. The fourth member, called ET4 or vasoactive intestinal constrictor, is considered to be the murine form ofET2. The endothelin molecules have several conserved amino acids, including the last six carboxyl (C)-terminal amino acids and four cysteine residues, which form two intrachain disulfide bonds between residues 1 and 15 and 3 and 11. These residues may have biologic implications particularly in relation to three dimensional structure and function. The main differences in the endothelin isopeptides reside in their amino (N)-terminal segments. There is a very high degree of sequence similarity between the two branches (approximately 60%) and within the constituent members of a branch (71% to 95%).

Endothelin has been demonstrated to be produced from endothelial and nonendothelial cells. The synthesis of endothelins parallels that of the various peptide hormones in that a precursor polypeptide is sequentially cleaved to generate the active form. Recently, endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE) was cloned. ECE acts at an essential step in the production of active forms of endothelins. The fully formed molecule is then broken down into inactive peptides by as yet uncharacterized proteases. Some candidates are the lysosomal protective protein (deamidase) and enkephalinase (neutral endopeptidase EC 24.11). The regulation of endothelin production occurs predominantly at the levels of transcription and translation. No storage
vesicles containing endothelin have been identified. The genes for the various endothelin isoforms have been sequenced and are found to be scattered in different chromosomes. Current evidence suggests that they arose from a common ancestor by exon duplication.

Factors known to release endothelinThrombinTransforming growth factor-~Arginine vasopressinHypoxia

Phorbol ester


Angiotensin II


Insulinlike growth factor



Low-density lipeprotein cholesterol


Changes in shear stress on vascular wall

Receptor affinities
Receptor Affinity
ETA ET1 > ET2 > ET3
ETB ET1 = ET2 = ET3
Intracellular signal transduction pathways activated by endothelins (ETs)

Intracellular signal transduction pathways activated by endothelins (ETs)

Intracellular signal transduction pathways activated by endothelins (ETs). Activated ET receptor stimulates phospholipase C (PLC) and phospholipase A2 (PLA2). Activated ET receptor also stimulates voltage-dependent calcium channels (VDC) and probably receptor-operated calcium channel (ROC). Inositol triphosphate (IP3) elicits release of calcium ion from caffeine-sensitive calcium store. Protein kinase C (PKC) activated by diacylglycerol (DG) sensitizes contractile apparatus. Increased concentration of intracellular free calcium ion ([Ca2+]i induces contraction. Cyclooxygenase products (prostacyclin [PGI2], prostaglandin E2 [PGE2], and thromboxane A2 [TXA2]) modify contraction. G, G protein; IP2, inositol biphosphate; IP3, inositol triphosphate; PIP2, phosphatidyl inositol biphosphate. (From Masaki T et al. Circulation 1991;84: 1460.)

Systemic hypertension. Endothelin is the most potent vasoconstrictor known to date and has an exceptionally long duration of physiologic action. The influence of endothelin in maintaining normal blood pressure and its role in the cause of systemic hypertension remain unclear. Intravenous injections of endothelin in animals cause a transient decrease in systolic blood pressure (ETB) followed by a prolonged pressor response (ETA). The vasoconstrictor action is mediated by ETA receptors in the vascular smooth muscle, whereas the predominant vasodilation effect is mediated by the ETB receptors on the endothelial cells that cause release of prostacyclin and nitric oxide. Therefore the overall predominant hemodynamic effect of endothelin in a given organ depends on the receptor type being stimulated, its location, and its relative abundance.

Angiotensin II has been found to increase endothelin concentrations in vitro from endo thelial cells, suggesting one mechanism by which angiotensin-converting-enzyme (ACE) inhibition could function in vivo. ACE inhibitors also can indirectly interfere with endothelin: increased concentrations of bradykinin decrease endothelin release (by acting through bradykinin 2 receptors, stimulation of which cause increased nitric oxide release). ACE inhibitors can cause regression of intimal hyperplasia, whereas other antihypertensive drugs are ineffective in this regard.

Myocardial ischemia. Myocardial ischemia can enhance the release of endothelin by cardiomyocytes and increase its vasoactive effects. Infusion of the ET1 isoform directly into the coronary circulation of animals results in the development of myocardial infarction, with impaired ventricular functioning and the development of arrhythmias. Endothelin has been shown to lower the threshold for ventricular fibrillation in dogs. An increase in ET1 has been observed in cardiac tissue after experimental myocardial infarction in rats, and pretreatment with an antiendothelin ϒ-globulin in this model can reduce infarct size by as much as 40%. Infusion of ETA receptor antagonist drugs before an ischemic insult can also reduce infarct size in animals.

Plasma endothelin concentrations can predict hemodynamic complications in patients with myocardial infarction. Patients with the highest plasma endothelin concentrations after myocardial infarction have the highest creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and CPK MB-isoenzyme concentrations and the lowest angiographically determined ejection fractions.

Left ventricular function and congestive heart failure. Endothelin exhibits potent inotropic activity in isolated hearts, cardiac muscle strips, isolated cells, and instrumented intact animals. High-affinity receptors for endothelin have been demonstrated in the atria and the ventricles. Intravenous administration of the ET1 isoform produces delayed prolonged augmentation of left ventricular performance in addition to its biphasic vasoactive effects of transient vasodilation followed by sustained vasocontraction.

Endothelin is a potent secretogogue of atrial natriuretic factor, which is a naturally occurring antagonist of endothelin. The ETA receptor appears to mediate endothelin’s actions of vasoconstriction and the stimulation of atrial natriuretic factor secretion, and the ETB receptor mediates endothelin-induced vasodilation and activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system. Urinary water excretion is mediated through both receptors, but sodium excretion is mediated through the ETA receptor.

Increased concentrations of endothelin described in patients with congestive heart failure are predictive of increased mortality risk. It also has been suggested that increased concentrations of endothelin may play an important role in the increased systemic vascular resistance observed in congestive heart failure.

There is early clinical evidence that treatment with ETA receptor antagonists and ECE inhibitors can influence favorably the course of human heart failure.  ACE inhibitors may also benefit patients with heart failure because of their antiendothelin actions.

Pulmonary hypertension. Expression of ET1 in the lung has been studied by immunocytochemistry and hybridization in situ in specimens from patients with pulmonary hypertension of primary or secondary causes. In contrast to normal lung, specimens from patients with pulmonary hypertension exhibit abundant ET2 immunostaining, particularly over endothelium of markedly hypertrophied muscular pulmonary arteries and plexogenic lesions. Endothelin has been suggested as a potent vasoconstrictor and growth-promoting factor in the pathophysiologic pathophysiologic mechanisms of pulmonary hypertension.

Ventricular and vascular hypertrophy. Endothelin increases DNA synthesis in vascular smooth-muscle ceils, cardiomyocytes, fibroblasts, glial cells, mesangial cells, and other cells; causes expression of protooncogenes; causes cell proliferation; and causes hypertrophy. It acts in synergy with various factors such as transforming growth factor, epidermal growth factor, platelet-derived growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor and insulin to potentiate cellular transformation and replication. This synergy suggests that all of these factors act through common pathways involving PKC and cyclic adenosine monophosphate. Endothelin per se may not be a direct mediator of angiogenesis but may function as a comitogenic factor.

Neointima formation after vascular wall trauma. The efficacy of coronary angioplasty is limited by the high incidence of restenosis. ET1 induces cultured vascular smooth-muscle cell proliferation by activation of the ETA-receptor subtype, a response that normally is attenuated by an intact, functional endothelium. In addition, ET1 also induces the expression and release of several protooncogenes and growth factors that modulate smooth-muscle cell migration, proliferation, and matrix formulation. In addition to inhibiting smooth-muscle cell proliferation in vitro, endothelin-receptor antagonism with SB 209670 ameliorates the degree of neointima formation observed after rat carotid artery angioplasty. The observations raise the possibility that ET1 antagonists will serve as novel therapeutic agents in the control of restenosis.

Nonspecific endothelin antagonists
ECE inhibitorsAngiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitorsAngiotensin II receptor blocking agentsCalcium-entry blocking agentsPotassium-channel opening agentsAdenosineNitroglycerin






Endothelin is the most potent mammalian vasoconstrictor yet discovered. Its three isoforms play leading roles in regulating vascular tone and causing mitogenesis. The isoforms bind to two major receptor subtypes (ETA and ETB), which mediate a wide variety of physiologic actions in several organ systems. Endothelin may also be a disease marker or an etiologic factor in ischemic heart disease, atherosclerosis, congestive heart failure, renal failure, myocardial and vascular wall hypertrophy, systemic hypertension, pulmonary hypertension, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. Specific and nonspecific receptor antagonists and ECE inhibitors that have been developed interfere with endothelin’s function. Many available cardiovascular therapeutic agents, such as angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitors, calcium-entry blocking drugs, and nitroglycerin, also may interfere with endothelin release or may modify its activity. The endothelin antagonists have great potential as agents for use in the treatment of a wide spectrum of disease entities and as biologic probes for understanding the actions of endothelin in human beings.

Endothelin receptor antagonists

Sophie Motte, Kathleen McEntee, Robert Naeije
Pharmacology & Therapeutics 110 (2006) 386 – 414

Endothelin receptor antagonists (ERAs) have been developed to block the effects of endothelin-1 (ET-1) in a variety of cardiovascular conditions. ET-1 is a powerful vasoconstrictor with mitogenic or co-mitogenic properties, which acts through the stimulation of 2 subtypes of receptors [endothelin receptor subtype A (ETA) and endothelin receptor subtype B (ETB) receptors]. Endogenous ET-1 is involved in a variety of conditions including systemic and pulmonary hypertension (PH), congestive heart failure (CHF), vascular remodeling (restenosis, atherosclerosis), renal failure, cancer, and cerebrovascular disease. The first dual ETA/ETB receptor blocker, bosentan, has already been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Trials of endothelin receptor antagonists in heart failure have been completed with mixed results so far. Studies are ongoing on the effects of selective ETA antagonists or dual ETA/ETB antagonists in lung fibrosis, cancer, and subarachnoid hemorrhage. While non-peptidic ET-1 receptor antagonists suitable for oral intake with excellent bioavailability have become available, proven efficacy is limited to pulmonary hypertension, but it is possible that these agents might find a place in the treatment of several cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular diseases in the coming future.

Proposed mechanism by which ET-1 triggers vasoconstriction and vascular remodeling. Activation of G-protein-coupled endothelin receptors leads to stimulation of phospholipase C (PLC) which hydrolyses phosphatidyl inositol  biphosphate (PIP2) into inositol triphosphate (IP3) and diacylglycerol (DAG). DAG opens receptor-operated Ca++ channels (ROC) while IP3 induces Ca++ mobilization from the sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR) and opens store-operated Ca++ channels (SOC) directly or indirectly by store depletion to further increase cytosolic Ca++. This Ca++ increase may also trigger Ca++ release from the SR through ryanodine receptors. Depolarization induced by the opening of non-selective cationic channels (NSCC) via ET-1 and Ca++-activated Cl[1] channels as well as by the inhibition of voltage-gated K+ channels (Kv), opens voltage-dependent Ca++ channels (VDCC) to further increase the Ca++ entry across the plasma membrane. The cytosolic Ca++ increase may also activate Na/H exchangers resulting in alkalinization of the cells and promoting Ca++ influx by activating the Na/Ca exchanger. In addition, the elevated cytosolic Ca++ concentrations and DAG activate the protein kinase C and thus promote cell cycle progression by the Ca++/calmodulin complex (Ca++/CaM) and induction of proto-oncogenes. The intracellular signaling cascade induced by activation of ETB receptor is similar to the ETA receptor one, in stimulating the activation of PLC, generating IP3 and DAG and mobilizing of calcium. However, the PLA2 is also activated via ETB receptors to release prostaglandins (PG) and thromboxane A2 (TXA2).

Endothelin-1 increases isoprenaline-enhanced cyclic AMP levels in cerebral cortex

Marıa J. Perez-Alvareza, MC Calcerrada, F Hernandez, RE Catalan, AM Martınez
Regulatory Peptides 88 (2000) 41–46  PII: S0167-0115(99)00118-4

We examined the effect of ET-1 on cyclic AMP levels in rat cerebral cortex. The peptide caused a concentration-dependent increase of [3 H] cyclic AMP accumulation after 10 min of treatment. This effect was due to adenosine accumulation since it was inhibited by the treatment with adenosine deaminase. ET-1, apart from being able to increase cyclic AMP, also potentiated the cyclic AMP generated by isoprenaline in the presence of adenosine deaminase. Experiments performed in the presence of BQ-123 or BQ-788, specific ETA or ETB receptor antagonists respectively indicated that ET was the receptor involved. This effect was dependent on extracellular and B intracellular calcium concentration. These findings suggest that ET-1 plays a modulatory role in cyclic AMP generation systems in cerebral cortex.

Endothelins And Asthma

Roy G. Goldie and Peter J. Henry
Life Sciences I999; 65(1), pp. I-15, PI1 SOO24-3205(98)00614-6

In the decade since endothelin-1 (ET-l) and related endogenous peptides were first identified as vascular endothelium-derived spasmogens, with potential pathophysiological roles in vascular diseases, there has been a significant accumulation of evidence pointing to mediator roles in obstructive respiratory diseases such as asthma. Critical pieces of evidence for this concept include the fact that ET-l is an extremely potent spasmogen in human and animal airway smooth muscle and that it is synthesised in and released from the bronchial epithelium. Importantly, symptomatic asthma involves a marked enhancement of these processes, whereas asthmatics treated with anti-inflammatory glucocorticoids exhibit reductions in these previously elevated indices. Despite this profile, a causal link between ET-l and asthma has not been definitively established. This review attempts to bring together some of the evidence suggesting the potential mediator roles for ET-l in this disease.

Endothelial Cell Peroxisome Proliferator–Activated Receptor ϒ Reduces Endotoxemic Pulmonary Inflammation and Injury

Aravind T. Reddy, SP Lakshmi, JM Kleinhenz, RL Sutliff, CM Hart, and R. Reddy
J Immunol 2012; 189:5411-5420

Bacterial endotoxin (LPS)-mediated sepsis involves severe, dysregulated inflammation that injures the lungs and other organs Bacterial endotoxin (LPS)-mediated sepsis involves severe, dysregulated inflammation that injures the lungs and other organs, often fatally. Vascular endothelial cells are both key mediators and targets of LPS-induced inflammatory responses. The nuclear hormone receptor peroxisome proliferator–activated receptor ϒ (PPARϒ) exerts anti-inflammatory actions in various cells, but it is unknown whether it modulates inflammation through actions within endothelial cells. To determine whether PPARϒ acts within endothelial cells to diminish endotoxemic lung inflammation and injury, we measured inflammatory responses and mediators in mice with endothelial-targeted deletion of PPARϒ. Endothelial cell PPARϒ (ePPARϒ) knockout exacerbated LPS-induced pulmonary inflammation and injury as shown by several measures, including infiltration of inflammatory cells, edema, and production of reactive oxygen species and proinflammatory cytokines, along with upregulation of the LPS receptor TLR4 in lung tissue and increased activation of its downstream signaling pathways. In isolated LPS-stimulated endothelial cells in vitro, absence of PPARϒ enhanced the production of numerous inflammatory markers. We hypothesized that the observed in vivo activity of the ligand-activated ePPARϒ may arise, in part, from nitrated fatty acids (NFAs), a novel class of endogenous PPARϒ ligands.
Supporting this idea, we found that treating isolated endothelial cells with physiologically relevant concentrations of the endogenous NFA 10-nitro-oleate reduced LPS-induced expression of a wide range of inflammatory markers in the presence of PPARϒ, but not in its absence, and also inhibited neutrophil mobility in a PPARϒ-dependent manner. Our results demonstrate a key protective role of ePPARϒ against endotoxemic injury and a potential ePPARϒ-mediated anti-inflammatory role for NFAs.

Endothelins in health and disease

Rahman Shah
European Journal of Internal Medicine 18 (2007) 272–282

Endothelins are powerful vasoconstrictor peptides that also play numerous other roles. The endothelin (ET) family consists of three peptides produced by a variety of tissues. Endothelin-1 (ET-1) is the principal isoform produced by the endothelium in the human cardiovascular system, and it exerts its actions through binding to specific receptors, the so-called type A (ETA) and type B (ETB) receptors. ET-1 is primarily a locally acting paracrine substance that appears to contribute to the maintenance of basal vascular tone. It is also activated in several diseases, including congestive heart failure, arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, coronary artery diseases, renal failure, cerebrovascular disease, pulmonary arterial hypertension, and sepsis. Thus, ET-1 antagonists are promising new agents. They have been shown to be effective in the management of primary pulmonary hypertension, but disappointing in heart failure. Clinical trials are needed to determine whether manipulation of the ET system will be beneficial in other diseases.

The production of ET receptors is affected by several factors. Hypoxia, cyclosporine, epidermal growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, cyclic AMP, and estrogen upregulate ETA receptors in some tissues, and C-type natriuretic hormone, angiotensin II, and perhaps basic fibroblast growth factor up-regulate ETB receptors. In contrast, the endothelins, angiotensin II, platelet-derived growth factor, and transforming growth factor down-regulate ETA receptors, whereas cyclic AMP and catecholamines down-regulate ETB receptors.

The ETA receptor contains 427 amino acids and binds with the following affinity: ET-1N>T-2>ET-3. It is predominantly expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells and cardiac myocytes. Its interaction with ET-1 results in vasoconstriction and cell proliferation. In contrast, the ETB receptor contains 442 amino acids and binds all endothelins with equal affinity. It is predominantly expressed on vascular endothelial cells and is linked to an inhibitory G protein. Activation of ETB receptors stimulates the release of NO and prostacyclin, prevents apoptosis, and inhibits ECE-1 expression in endothelial cells. ETB receptors also mediate the pulmonary clearance of circulating ET-1 and the re-uptake of ET-1 by endothelial cells.

All three endothelins cause transient endothelium dependent vasodilatation before the development of constriction, though this is most apparent for ET-1. Endothelins induce vasodilatation via the endothelial cell ETB receptors through generation of endothelium-derived dilator substances (Fig. 3), including nitric oxide (NO), which perhaps acts by physiologically antagonizing ETA receptor mediated vasoconstriction. The transient early vasodilator actions of the endothelins are attenuated by NO synthase inhibitors.  Additionally, ET-1 increases generation of prostacyclin by cultured endothelial cells, whereas cyclo-oxygenase inhibitors potentiate ET-1-induced constriction, suggesting that vasodilator prostaglandins play a similar modulatory role.

It has been proposed that ET-1 can affect vascular tone indirectly through its effect on the sympathetic nervous system, and it has been shown that that ET-1 may increase peripheral sympathetic activity through postsynaptic potentiation of the effects of norepinephrine. While in vitro low concentrations of ET-1 potentiate the effects of other vasoconstrictor hormones, including norepinephrine and serotonin, these findings have not been confirmed in vivo in the forearm resistance bed of healthy subjects.  In addition to its action on vascular vasomotion, ET-1 is thought to be a mediator in the vascular remodeling process. It seems that ET-1 interactions with the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system play a significant role in this remodeling process.

Vascular actions of endothelin-1

Vascular actions of endothelin-1

Vascular actions of endothelin-1. Modified from – Galie N, Manes A, Branzi A; The endothelin system in pulmonary arterial hypertension. Cardiovasc Res 2004;61:227–37.

ET-1 appears to have a diverse role as a modulator of vascular tone and growth and as a mediator in many cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular diseases. To date, no disease entity, however, has been attributed solely to an abnormality in ET-1. Yet, ET-1 receptor antagonists have been studied in clinical trials involving a wide spectrum of cardiovascular diseases, though the only proven efficacy has been in patients with PAH.

Learning points

  • Endothelins are powerful vasoconstrictors and major regulators of vascular tone.
  • The endothelin (ET) family consists of three peptides (ET-1 ∼60%, ET-2 ∼30%, and ET-3 ∼10%) produced by a variety of tissues.
  • ET-1 is the principal isoform produced by the endothelium in the human cardiovascular system and appears to be foremost a locally acting paracrine substance rather than a circulating endocrine hormone.
  • Several human studies suggest that circulating ET-1 levels, which are elevated in heart failure and pulmonary hypertension, correlate with the prognosis of the disease.
  • ET-1 antagonists have been shown to be effective in the management of primary pulmonary hypertension, but disappointing in heart failure.
  • Clinical trials are needed to investigate the role of ET-1 receptor antagonists for other conditions, as ET-1 levels have been shown to be elevated in arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, coronary artery disease, renal failure, cerebrovascular disease, and sepsis.

In Vitro Stability and Intestinal Absorption Characteristics of Hexapeptide Endothelin Receptor Antagonists

Hyo-kyung Han, BH Stewart, AM Doherty, WL Cody and GL Amidon
Life Sciences. I998; 63(18), pp. 1599-1609. PI1 SOO24-3205(98)00429-9

Endothelins are potent vasoconstrictor peptides which have a wide range of tissue distribution and three receptor subtypes (ETA ETB and ETC). Among the linear hexapeptide ETA / ETB receptor antagonists, PD 145065 (Ac-D-Bhg-L-Leu-L-Asp-L-Ile-L-Ile-L-Trp,  Bhg = (10,ll -dihydro-5H-dibenzo[a,d]cyclohepten-5-yl)-Gly) and PD 156252 (Ac-o-Bhg-L-Leu-L-Asp-L-Ile-(N-methyl)-L-Ile-L-Trp) were selected to evaluate the metabolic stability and intestinal absorption in the absence and/or in the presence of protease inhibitors. In vitro stability of both compounds was investigated in fresh plasma, lumenal perfusate, intestinal and liver homogenates. PD 156252 was more stable than PD 145065 in intestinal tissue homogenate (63.4% vs. 20.5% remaining) and liver homogenate (74.4% vs. 35.5 % remaining), while both compounds showed relatively good stability in the fresh plasma (94.5% vs. 86.7% remaining) and lumenal perfusate (85.8% vs. 72.3% remaining). The effect of protease inhibitors on the degradation of PD 145065 and PD 156252 was also investigated. Amastatin, thiorphan, chymostatin and the mixture of these three inhibitors were effective in reducing the degradation of both compounds. The pharmacokinetic parameters of PD 156252, calculated by using a non-compartmental model, were 6.95 min (terminal half-life), 191 mL (Vss), and 25.5 mL/min (Cltot) after intravenous administration in rats. The intestinal absorption of PD 156252 in rats was evaluated in the absence and/or in the presence of protease inhibitors. The results indicate that the major elimination pathway of PD 156252 appears to be the biliary excretion and protease inhibitors increase the intestinal absorption of PD 156252 through increasing metabolic stability.

Inhibitory and facilitatory presynaptic effects of endothelin on sympathetic cotransmission in the rat isolated tail artery

Violeta N. Mutafova-Yambolieva & David P. Westfall
British Journal of Pharmacology (1998) 123, 136 – 142

1 The present study was undertaken to determine the modulatory effects of the endothelin peptides on the neurogenically-induced release of endogenous noradrenaline (NA) and the cotransmitter adenosine 5′-triphosphate (ATP) from the sympathetic nerves of endothelium-free segments of the rat isolated tail artery. The electrical field stimulation (EFS, 8 Hz, 0.5 ms, 3 min) evoked over¯ow of NA and ATP, in the absence of endothelins, was 0.035+0.002 pmol mg71 tissue and 0.026+0.002 pmol mg71 tissue, respectively.

2 Endothelin-1 (ET-1; 1 ± 30 nM) significantly reduced the EFS evoked overflow of both NA and ATP.  The maximum inhibitory effect was produced by a peptide concentration of 10 nM, the amount of NA overflow being 0.020+0.002 pmol mg71 and that of ATP overflow 0.015+0.001 pmol mg71. Higher peptide concentrations (100 and 300 nM) reversed the EFS-evoked overflow of NA to control levels and that of ATP to above control levels. The inhibitory effect of ET-1 (10 nM) was resistant to the selective ETA receptor antagonist cyclo-D-Trp-D-Asp(ONa)-Pro-D-Val-Leu (BQ-123) but was prevented by ETB receptor desensitization with sarafotoxin S6c (StxS6c) or by ETB receptor blockade with N, cis-2,6-dimethyl-piperidinocarbonyl-L-gmethylleucyl-D-1-methoxycarbonyl-tryptophanyl-D-norleucine (BQ-788).

3 StxS6c, upon acute application, exerted a dual effect on transmitter release. At concentrations of 0.001 ± 0.3 nM the peptide significantly reduced the EFS-evoked NA overflow, whereas at concentrations of 1 ± 10 nM it caused a significant increase in the evoked overflow of both ATP and NA. Both the maximum inhibitory effect of StxS6c at a concentration of 0.003 nM approximately 85% reduction of NA overflow and 40% of ATP overflow) and the maximum facilitatory effect of the peptide at a concentration of 3 nM (approximately 400% increase of ATP overflow and 200% of NA overflow) were completely antagonized by either BQ-788 or by StxS6c-induced ETB receptor desensitization.

4 ET-3 (10 ± 100 nM) did not a€ect the EFS evoked overflow of either ATP or NA, but at a concentration of 300 nM significantly potentiated the release of both transmitters (0.118+ 0.02 pmol mg71 tissue ATP overflow and .077+0.004 pmol mg71 NA overflow). This effect was prevented either by BQ-123 or by BQ-788.

5 In summary, the endothelin peptides exerted both facilitatory and inhibitory effects on the neurogenically-induced release of the sympathetic cotransmitters ATP and NA in the rat tail artery. Both transmitters were modulated in parallel indicating that the endothelins do not differentially modulate the release of NA and ATP in this tissue.

Involvement of the central adrenomedullin peptides in the baroreflex

Meghan M. Taylo, Cynthia A. Keown, Willis K. Samson
Regulatory Peptides 112 (2003) 87– 93

The peptides derived from post-translational processing of preproadreno-medullin are produced in and act on areas of the autonomic nervous system important for blood pressure regulation. We examined the role of endogenous, brain-derived adrenomedullin (AM) and proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP) in the central nervous system arm of the baroreflex by using passive immunoneutralization to block the actions of the endogenous peptides. Our results indicate that the preproadrenomedullin-derived peptides do not play a role in sensing changes in blood pressure (baroreflex sensitivity), but the adrenomedullin peptides do regulate the speed with which an animal returns to a normal, stable blood pressure. These findings suggest that endogenous, brain-derived AM and PAMP participate in the regulation of autonomic activity in response to baroreceptor activation and inactivation.

Pharmacological characterization of cardiovascular responses induced by endothelin-1 in the perfused rat heart

Keiji Kusumoto, A Fujiwara, S Ikeda, T Watanabe, M Fujino
Eur J Pharmacology 296 (1996) 65-74 SSDI 0014-2999(95)00680-X

The effects of the endothelin receptor antagonist TAK-044 (cyclo[D-α-aspartyl-3-[(4-phenylpiperazin-l-yl)carbonyl]-L-alanyl-L-α-aspartyl-D-2-(2-thienyl)-glycyl-L-leucyl-D-tryptophyl] disodium salt) and BQ-123 (cyclo[D-Asp-Pro-D-VaI-Leu-D-Trp]) were studied in the rat heart to characterize the receptor subtypes responsible for the cardiovascular actions of endothelin-1. Endothelin-1 induced a transient decrease and subsequent increase in perfusion pressure in perfused rat hearts, and increased left ventricular developed pressure. TAK-044 diminished these endothelin-l-induced responses (100 pmol/heart) with IC50 values of 140, 57 and 1.3 nM, respectively. BQ-123 (1-30/µM) partially inhibited the endothelin-l-induced hypertension (30-40%) in the rat heart, and failed to inhibit the hypotension. The positive inotropic effect of endothelin-1 was abolished by BQ-123. Neither indomethacin (10/µM) nor N’°-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (100/pM) attenuated the  endothelin-l-induced hypotension. TAK-044 and BQ-123 attenuated the positive inotropic effect of endothelin-1 in rat papillary muscles. In rat cardiac membrane fractions, TAK-044 and BQ-123 inhibited [125I]endothelin-1 binding to endothelin ET A receptors with IC50 values of 0.39 + 0.6 and 36 + 9 nM, respectively, whereas only TAK-044 potently blocked the endothelin ET B receptor subtype (IC50 value: 370 + 180 nM). These results suggest that endothelin-1 modulates cardiovascular functions in the rat heart by activating both endothelin ET A and endothelin ET B receptors, all of which are sensitive to TAK-044.

Molecular Pharmacology and Pathophysiological Significance of Endothelin

Katsutoshi Goto, Hiroshi Hama and Yoshitoshi Kasuya
Jp J Pharmacol 1996; 72: 261-290

Since the discovery of the most potent vasoconstrictor peptide, endothelin, in 1988, explosive investigations have rapidly clarified much of the basic pharmacological, biochemical and molecular biological features of endothelin, including the presence and structure of isopeptides and their genes (endothelin- 1, -2 and -3), regulation of gene expression, intracellular processing, specific endothelia converting enzyme (ECE), receptor subtypes (ETA and ETB), intracellular signal transduction following receptor activation, etc. ECE was recently cloned, and its structure was shown to be a single transmembrane protein with a short intracellular N-terminal and a long extracellular C-terminal that contains the catalytic domain and numerous N-glycosylation sites. In addition to acute contractile or secretory actions, endothelin has been shown to exert long-term proliferative actions on many cell types. In this case, intracellular signal transduction appears to converge to activation of mitogen-activated protein kinase. As a recent dramatic advance, a number of non-peptide and orally active receptor antagonists have been developed. They, as well as current peptide antagonists, markedly accelerated the pace of investigations into the true pathophysiological roles of endogenous endothelin-1 in mature animals.

The discovery of endothelin in 1988 soon triggered explosive investigations of a worldwide scale, presumably due to its unusual characteristics; i.e., marked potency and long-lasting pressor actions. As a result, most of the basic problems concerned with the science of endothelin have rapidly been solved; e.g., features and regulations of the expression of endothelin genes,  biosynthetic pathways including characterization and cloning of endothelin converting enzyme, pharmacological, biochemical and molecular-biological identification of endothelin receptor subtypes, intracellular signal transduction following receptor activation, and discovery of various receptor agonists and antagonists. In addition to its potent cardiovascular actions, endothelin-1 shows a wide variety of biological effects, including contraction of nonvascular smooth muscle (intestinal, tracheal, broncheal, mesangial, bladder, uterine and prostatic smooth muscle), stimulation of neuropeptides, pituitary hormone and atrial natriuretic peptide release and aldosterone biosynthesis, modulation of neurotransmitter release, and increase of bone resorption. Furthermore, endothelin-1 has mitogenic properties and causes proliferation and hypertrophy of a number of cell types, including vascular smooth muscle cells, cardiac myocytes, mesangial cells, bronchial smooth muscle cells and fibroblasts. Endothelin-1 also induces the expression of several protooncogenes (c fos, C -Jun, c-myc, etc.).

These actions, whereby endothelin- 1 might influence the development of cellular hypertrophy/hyperplasia, are of potential significance in pathophysiological conditions associated with long-term changes in cardiovascular tissues, e.g., hypertension, myocardial infarction, chronic heart failure, vascular restenosis following balloon angioplasty, and atherosclerosis. These pathophysiological conditions are usually associated with increased plasma levels of endothelin-1, although the correlation is relatively poor. Nevertheless, a considerable increase in the tissue content of endothelin-1 has been gradually uncovered in many cases of these conditions. Even if the concentration of endothelin-1 at the cell surface is not high enough to induce contraction, it is well known that subthreshold concentrations of endothelin will enhance or potentiate the contraction produced by other vasoconstrictors (e.g., norepinephrine, serotonin, angiotensin II), indicating the existence of cross-talk among various vasoactive substances. Another important cross-talk among these substances may be mutual enhancement or inhibition of their expression in various tissues. In addition to these interactions, the true physiological and/or pathophysiological roles of each of the endothelin family peptide and receptor subtypes remain to be investigated.

Hydrogen Sulfide and Endothelium-Dependent Vasorelaxation

Jerzy Bełtowski, and Anna Jamroz-Wiśniewska
Molecules 2014, 19, 21183-21199;

In addition to nitric oxide and carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide (H2S), synthesized enzymatically from L-cysteine or L-homocysteine, is the third gasotransmitter in mammals. Endogenous H2S is involved in the regulation of many physiological processes, including vascular tone. Although initially it was suggested that in the vascular wall H2S is synthesized only by smooth muscle cells and relaxes them by activating ATP-sensitive potassium channels, more recent studies indicate that H2S is synthesized in endothelial cells as well. Endothelial H2S production is stimulated by many factors, including acetylcholine, shear stress, adipose tissue hormone leptin, estrogens and plant flavonoids. In some vascular preparations H2S plays a role of endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor by activating small and intermediate-conductance calcium-activated potassium channels. Endothelial H2S signaling is up-regulated in some pathologies, such as obesity and cerebral ischemia-reperfusion. In addition, H2S activates endothelial NO synthase and inhibits cGMP degradation by phosphodiesterase thus potentiating the effect of NO-cGMP pathway. Moreover, H2S-derived polysulfides directly activate protein kinase G. Finally, H2S interacts with NO to form nitroxyl (HNO)—a potent vasorelaxant. H2S appears to play an important and multidimensional role in endothelium-dependent vasorelaxation.

GPCR modulation by RAMPs

Debbie L. Hay, David R. Poyner, Patrick M. Sexton
Pharmacology & Therapeutics 109 (2006) 173 – 197

Our conceptual understanding of the molecular architecture of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs) has transformed over the last decade. Once considered as largely independent functional units (aside from their interaction with the G-protein itself), it is now clear that a single GPCR is but part of a multifaceted signaling complex, each component providing an additional layer of sophistication. Receptor activity modifying proteins (RAMPs) provide a notable example of proteins that interact with GPCRs to modify their function. They act as pharmacological switches, modifying GPCR pharmacology for a particular subset of receptors. However, there is accumulating evidence that these ubiquitous proteins have a broader role, regulating signaling and receptor trafficking. This article aims to provide the reader with a comprehensive appraisal of RAMP literature and perhaps some insight into
the impact that their discovery has had on those who study GPCRs.

RAMPs were first identified during attempts to expression clone a receptor for the neuropeptide calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP; McLatchie et al., 1998). Historical evidence had suggested that CGRP acted through a GPCR, as its binding had proven sensitive to GTP analogues and stimulation of various tissues and cells led to the accumulation of cAMP, suggesting activation of a Gs-coupled GPCR. However, attempts to clone such a receptor proved difficult. A putative canine CGRP receptor, RDC-1, was identified in 1995, but the original findings have not been replicated and current IUPHAR guidelines do not consider this receptor a genuine CGRP receptor (Kapas & Clark, 1995; Poyner et al., 2002). Shortly afterward, a further orphan receptor (CL, a close homologue of the calcitonin receptor) was shown to be activated by CGRP when transfected into HEK293 cells (Aiyar et al., 1996). This finding posed something of a conundrum since earlier attempts to examine the function of this receptor (or its rat homologue) in Cos 7 cells had not given positive results with CGRP.
Given the apparent functionality of the human CL receptor in HEK293 cells, the rat homologue was also transfected into this cell type and now responded to CGRP (Han et al., 1997). The authors speculated that there was a factor present in HEK293 cells that conferred high affinity for CGRP on the receptor.

In 1998, McLatchie and colleagues confirmed this speculation and provided new insights into the way that GPCRs and their pharmacology can be regulated (McLatchie et al., 1998). It was discovered that a novel family of single transmembrane domain proteins, termed RAMPs, was required for functional expression of CL at the cell surface, explaining why it had been so difficult to observe CGRP binding or function when CL was transfected into cells lacking RAMP expression (Fluhmann et al., 1995; Han et al., 1997; McLatchie et al., 1998). RAMPs were first identified from a library derived from SK-N-MC cells, cells known to express CGRP receptors. An expression-cloning strategy was utilized, whereby an SK-N-MC cDNA library was transcribed and the corresponding cRNA was used for injection into Xenopus oocytes. Cystic
fibrosis transmembrane regulator chloride conductance, a reporter for cAMP formation, was strongly potentiated by a single cRNA pool (in the presence of CGRP). Subsequently, a single cDNA encoding a 148-amino-acid protein comprising RAMP1 was isolated. The structure of the protein was unexpected, as it was not a GPCR and it did not respond to CGRP in mammalian cells. Thus, it was postulated that RAMP1 might potentiate CGRP receptors. A CL/RAMP1 co-transfection experiment supported this hypothesis.

CGRP/AM on the outside of the cell and did not simply act as anchoring/chaperone proteins for CL. RAMPs therefore provide a novel mechanism for modulating receptor–ligand specificity. The unique pharmacological profiles supported by RAMPs are discussed in later sections.

Fig. (not shown).  CGRP1 receptor-specific small molecule antagonists. The small molecule antagonist BIBN4096 BS (brown) is a specific antagonist of the CGRP1 receptor, acting at the interface between RAMP1 and the CL receptor to inhibit CGRP action. At least part of the binding affinity for BIBN4096 BS arises from interaction with Trp74 (red) of RAMP1. In contrast, antagonists that bind principally to the CL component of the complex will not discriminate between different CL/RAMP complexes.

The classic function attributed to RAMPs is their ability to switch the pharmacology of CL, thus providing a novel mechanism for modulating receptor specificity. Thus, the CL/RAMP1 complex is a high affinity CGRP receptor, but in the presence of RAMP2, CL specificity is radically altered, the related peptide AM being recognized with the highest affinity and the affinity for CGRP being reduced ¨100-fold. While AM is the highest affinity peptide, CGRP is recognized with moderate, rather than low affinity. Indeed, depending on the species and the form of CGRP (h vs. a), the separation between the 2 peptides can be as little as 10-fold (Hay et al., 2003a). This may particularly be true if receptor components of mixed species are used. The detailed pharmacology of the CGRP and AM receptors formed by RAMP interaction with CL has recently been reviewed (Born et al., 2002; Poyner et al., 2002; Hay et al., 2004; Kuwasako et al., 2004).

Fig. (not shown). The broadening spectrum of RAMP–receptor interactions. RAMPs can interact with multiple receptor partners. All RAMPs interact with the calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CL-R), the calcitonin receptor (CTR), and the VPAC1 receptor, while the glucagon and PTH1 receptors interact with RAMP2, the PTH2 receptor with RAMP3, and the calcium sensing receptor (CalS-R) with RAMP1 or RAMP3. The consequence of RAMP interaction varies. For the CL and CalS receptors, RAMPs play a chaperone role, allowing cell surface expression. For the CL and calcitonin receptors, RAMP interaction leads to novel receptor binding phenotypes . There is also evidence that RAMP interaction will modify signaling, and this has been seen for the VPAC1–RAMP2 heterodimer and for calcitonin receptor/RAMP complexes. In many instances, however, the consequence of RAMP interaction has yet to be defined.

Overall, the distribution data presented so far are supportive of the hypothesis that RAMP and CL or calcitonin receptor combinations are able to account for the observed CGRP, AM, and AMY pharmacology. A salient point for CGRP receptors relates to the cerebellum, where the lack of CL mRNA in some studies despite abundant CGRP binding has prompted speculation of alternative CGRP receptors (Oliver et al., 2001; Chauhan et al., 2003). Nevertheless, this apparent lack is study dependent and CL has been identified in cerebellum in other studies.

Some consideration has been given to the potential role that RAMPs may have in modifying receptor behaviors other than ligand binding pharmacology. An additional functional consequence might be that of alteration of receptor signaling characteristics.

While there is currently little evidence for signaling modifications of CL-based receptors in association with RAMPs, a completely different paradigm is evident for the VPAC1 receptor. This receptor has strong interactions with all 3 RAMPs, but its pharmacology, in terms of agonist binding, does not appear to be modified by their presence. On the other hand, there was a clear functional consequence of RAMP2 overexpression with the VPAC1 receptor where PI hydrolysis was specifically augmented relative to cAMP, which did not change. The potency of the response (EC50 of vasoactive intestinal peptide) was not altered, but the maximal PI hydrolysis response was elevated in the presence of RAMP2 . It has been suggested that this may reflect a change in compartmentalization of the receptor signaling complex. Such augmentation was not evident for the interaction of the VPAC1 receptor with RAMP1 or RAMP3; in these cases, the outcome of heterodimerization may be more subtle or involve the modification of different receptor parameters such as trafficking.

RAMPs transformed our understanding of how receptor pharmacology can be modulated and provided a novel mechanism for generating receptor subtypes within a subset of family B GPCRs. Their role has now broadened and they have been shown to interact with several other family B GPCRs, in 1 case modifying signaling parameters. There is now evidence to suggest that their interactions also reach into family C, and possibly family A, GPCRs, indicating that their function may not be restricted to modulation of a highly specific subset of receptors. Indeed, many aspects of RAMP function remain poorly understood, and the full extent of their action remains to be explored.

Receptor activity modifying proteins

Patrick M. Sexton, Anthony Albiston, Maria Morfis, Nanda Tilakaratne
Cellular Signalling 13 (2001) 73-83  PII: S0898-6568(00)00143-1

Our understanding of G protein-coupled receptor (GPCR) function has recently expanded to encompass novel protein interactions that underlie both cell-surface receptor expression and the exhibited phenotype. The most notable examples are those involving receptor activity modifying proteins (RAMPs). RAMP association with the calcitonin (CT) receptor-like receptor (CRLR) traffics this receptor to the cell surface where individual RAMPs dictate the expression of unique phenotypes. A similar function has been ascribed to RAMP interaction with the CT receptor (CTR) gene product. This review examines
our current state of knowledge of the mechanisms underlying RAMP function.

It is now evident that RAMPs can interact with receptors other than CRLR. Expression of amylin receptor phenotypes requires the coexpression of
RAMPs with the CTR gene product. However, as seen in CRLR, the phenotype engendered by individual RAMPs was distinct. In COS-7 or rabbit aortic endothelial cells (RAECs), RAMP1 and RAMP3 induced amylin receptors that differ in their affinity for CGRP, while RAMP2 was relatively ineffective in inducing amylin receptor phenotype. RAMP2 can also induce an amylin receptor phenotype, which is distinct from either the RAMP1- or RAMP3-induced receptors. However, the efficacy of RAMP2 was highly dependent upon the cellular background and the isoform of CTR used in the study.

In humans, the major CTR variants differ by the presence or absence of a 16 amino acid insert in the first intracellular domain, with the insert negative isoform (hCTRI1ÿ) being the most commonly expressed form and the variant used for initial studies with RAMPs. Unlike hCTRI1ÿ, cotransfection of the hCTRI1+ variant with any of the RAMPs into COS-7 cells caused strong induction of amylin receptor phenotype. The hCTR isoforms differ in their ability to activate signaling pathways (presumably due to an effect on G protein coupling) and to internalize in response to agonist treatment, which may suggest a role for G proteins in the ability of RAMPs to alter receptor phenotype.

There are at least three potential consequences of RAMP interaction with its associating receptors. The first is trafficking of receptor protein from an intracellular compartment to the cell surface. The second is an alteration in
the terminal glycosylation of the receptor, and the third is alteration of receptor phenotype, presumably through a direct or indirect effect on the ligand-binding site.

potential actions of RAMPs

potential actions of RAMPs

Schematic diagram illustrating potential actions of RAMPs. (A) RAMPs facilitate the trafficking of CRLR from an intracellular compartment to the cell surface. (B) RAMP1 (but not RAMP2 or RAMP3) modifies the terminal glycosylation
of CRLR. (C) The cell surface RAMP1±CRLR complex is a Type 1 CGRP receptor, which displays a 1:1 stoichiometry. (D,E) Cell surface RAMP2±CRLR and  RAMP3±CRLR complexes are adrenomedullin receptors. (F,G) For at least RAMP1 and RAMP3, RAMPs form stable homodimers, although the function
of these complexes is unknown. (H) Unlike CRLR, the CTR gene product is trafficked to the cell surface in the absence of RAMPs, where it displays classical CTR phenotype. (I,J) RAMP1± and RAMP3±CTR complexes form distinct amylin receptors. RAMP2 can also generate a separate amylin receptor phenotype (not illustrated). (C ±E,I,J) RAMPs are trafficked with either receptor to the plasma membrane. (K) For all three RAMP±CRLR complexes, agonist treatment causes clathrin-mediated internalization of both CRLR and RAMP.
(L) The majority of the internalized complex is targeted to the lysosomal-degradation pathway.

The data from Zumpe et al. suggest that RAMP2 interacts more weakly with the hCTRI1ÿ than RAMP1, and that the affinity of this interaction derives principally from the transmembrane domain/C-terminus (Ct) of the RAMPs. As RAMP3 induces an amylin receptor phenotype in COS-7 cells where RAMP2 is relatively weak, it is inferred that RAMP3 interaction with the hCTRI1ÿ is probably greater than that of RAMP2. Nonetheless, this has not been examined empirically. Given the recent data suggesting a potential role for G protein coupling in expression of RAMP-induced phenotype, it is also possible that the strength of RAMP interaction is, at least partially, dictated by receptor-G protein or RAMP-G protein interaction.

The discovery of RAMPs has led to a greater understanding of the nature of receptor diversity. However, although much progress has been made into elucidating the molecular mechanism of RAMP action, emerging data continue to open up new areas for investigation. These include identification of other RAMP-interacting receptors, understanding of the role of specific G proteins in RAMP-receptor function and the potential importance of RAMP regulation in disease progression. It also seems likely that the RAMP-receptor interface can provide a useful target for future drug development.

Cardiovascular endothelins: Essential regulators of cardiovascular homeostasis

Friedrich Brunner, C Bras-Silva, AS Cerdeira, AF Leite-Moreira
Pharmacology & Therapeutics 111 (2006) 508 – 531

The endothelin (ET) system consists of 3 ET isopeptides, several isoforms of activating peptidases, and 2 G-protein-coupled receptors, ETA and ETB, that are linked to multiple signaling pathways. In the cardiovascular system, the components of the ET family are expressed in several tissues, notably the vascular endothelium, smooth muscle cells, and cardiomyocytes. There is general agreement that ETs play important physiological roles in the regulation of normal cardiovascular function, and excessive generation of ET isopeptides has been linked to major cardiovascular pathologies, including hypertension and heart failure. However, several recent clinical trials with ET receptor antagonists were disappointing.

In the present review, the authors take the stance that ETs are mainly and foremost essential regulators of cardiovascular function, hence that antagonizing normal ET actions, even in patients, will potentially do more harm than good. To support this notion, we describe the predominant roles of ETs in blood vessels, which are (indirect) vasodilatation and ET clearance from plasma and interstitial spaces, against the background of the subcellular mechanisms mediating these effects. Furthermore, important roles of ETs in regulating and adapting heart functions to different needs are addressed, including recent progress in understanding the effects of ETs on diastolic function, adaptations to changes in preload, and the interactions between endocardial-derived ET-1 and myocardial pump function. Finally, the potential dangers (and gains) resulting from the suppression of excessive generation or activity of ETs occurring in some cardiovascular pathological states, such as hypertension, myocardial ischemia, and heart failure, are discussed.

Figure (not shown):  Synthesis of ET and its regulation. The release of active ET-1 is controlled via regulation of gene transcription and/or endothelin converting enzyme activity. ET-1 synthesis is stimulated by several factors, of which hypoxia seems to be the most potent in humans (see text). ET-1 formation is down-regulated by activators of the NO/cGMP pathway and other factors.

Figure (not shown): Vascular actions of ET. In healthy blood vessels, the main action of ET-1 is indirect vasodilatation mediated by ETB receptors located on endothelial cells. Their activation generates a Ca2+ signal via PLC that turns on the generation of NO, prostacyclin, adrenomedullin, and other mediators that are powerful relaxants of smooth muscle. On the other hand, binding of ET-1 to ETA receptors located on smooth muscle cells will lead to vascular contraction (physiological effect) and/or wall thickening, inflammation, and tissue remodeling (pathological effects). These latter effects may partly be mediated by vascular ETB2 receptors in certain disease states. Smooth muscle cell signaling involves DAG formation, PKC activation, and extracellular Ca2+ recruited via different cation channels. The specificity of the cellular response resides at the level of G proteins, that is, G-as or G-aq in the case of ETA, G-ai or G-aq for ETB.

signal transduction mechanisms involved in ET-1-mediated positive (left) and negative (right) inotropic effects

signal transduction mechanisms involved in ET-1-mediated positive (left) and negative (right) inotropic effects

Summary of proposed signal transduction mechanisms involved in ET-1-mediated positive (left) and negative (right) inotropic effects. Left: Stimulation of ETA receptors causes Gq protein-directed activation of PLC, formation of IP3 and DAG, and activation of NHE-1. Increased contractile force is the result of (i) Ca2+ release from the sarco(endo)plasmic reticulum, (ii) sensitization of cardiac myofilaments to Ca2+ due to cellular alkalosis, and (iii) increased Ca2+ influx through the NCX operating in reverse mode. The contribution of voltage-gated L-type Ca2+ channels to the systolic Ca2+ transient is unknown, as is the role of myocyte ETB2 receptors. Right: The ET receptor subtypes mediating negative inotropic effects are poorly known. Two main signaling mechanisms involve (i) inhibition of adenylyl cyclase (AC), guided by a G protein, of unknown binding preference, which results in decreased levels of cAMP; (ii) cGMP-mediated activation of phosphatases that dephosphorylate putative targets resulting from cAMP/protein kinase A (PKA) activation. Other kinases like PKC and PKG have also been implicated in accentuated force antagonism.

Adrenomedullin (11–26): a novel endogenous hypertensive peptide isolated from bovine adrenal medulla

Kazuo Kitamuraa,*, Eizaburo Matsuia, Jhoji Katoa, Fumi Katoha
Peptides 22 (2001) 1713–1718 PII: S0196-9781(01)00529-0

Adrenomedullin (AM) is a potent hypotensive peptide originally isolated from pheochromocytoma tissue. Both the ring structure and the C-terminal amide structure of AM are essential for its hypotensive activity. We have developed an RIA which recognizes the ring structure of human AM. Using this RIA, we have characterized the molecular form of AM in bovine adrenal medulla. Gel filtration chromatography revealed that three major peaks of immunoreactive AM existed in the adrenal medulla. The peptide corresponding to Mr 1500 Da was further purified to homogeneity. The peptide was determined to be AM (11–26) which has one intramolecular disulfide bond. Amino acid sequences of bovine AM and its precursor were deduced from the analyses of cDNA encoding bovine AM precursor. The synthetic AM (11–26) produced dose-dependent strong pressor responses in unanesthetized rats in vivo. The hypertensive activity lasted about one minute, and a dose dependent increase in heart rate was also observed. The present data indicate that AM (11–26) is a major component of immunoreactive AM in bovine adrenal medulla and shows pressor activity.

The pressor effect of AM(11–26) was examined by methods similar to those reported for Neuropeptide Y.

We have established a sensitive RIA system using a monoclonal antibody which recognizes the ring structure of human AM. Human AM antiserum recognized the peptide with high affinity at a final dilution of 1:2,800,000. The half maximal inhibition of radioiodinated ligand binding by human AM was observed at 10 fmol/tube. From 1 to 128 fmol/tube of AM was measurable by this RIA system. The intra- and inter-assay coefficients of variance were less than 6% and 9%, respectively. This RIA had 100% cross-reactivity with human AM(13–31), (1–25), (1–52)Gly and AM(1–52)CONH2, but less than 1% cross-reactivity with rat AM.

Sephadex G-50 gel-filtration of strongly basic peptide extract (SP-III) in bovine adrenal medulla identified three major peaks of immunoreactive AM. One emerged at the identical position of authentic AM, the other two unknown peaks were eluted later at molecular weights estimated to be 3000 and 1500 Da, respectively. The peptide corresponding to Mr 1500 Da was further purified.

The purified peptide (20 pmol) was subjected to a gas phase sequencer, and the amino acid sequence was determined up to the 16th residue, which was found to be C terminus . It was found that the purified peptide was AM (11–26). The structure of AM (11–26) was confirmed by chromatographic comparison with native AM (11–26) as well as a synthetic AM (11–26), which has one intramolecular disulfide bond.

3 clones were isolated, and the clone designated pBAM-2, which harbored the longest insert of 1,438 base, was used for sequencing. The bovine AM cDNA contained a single open reading frame encoding a putative 188 amino acid polypeptide. The first 21-residue peptide is thought to be a signal peptide. The bovine AM propeptide contains three signals of dibasic amino acid sequences, Lys-Arg or Arg-Arg. The first Lys-Arg followed proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP) sequences. AM is located between the second signal of Lys-Arg and the third signal of Arg-Arg. Gly residues, which are donors of C-terminal amide structure of PAMP and AM, are found before the first and third signal of Lys-Arg and Arg-Arg. Bovine AM consists of 52 amino acids and is identical to human AM with exception of four amino acids. Bovine PAMP consists of 20 amino acids and is identical to human PAMP with exception of one amino acid. The present cDNA sequence encoding bovine AM precursor is almost identical to those of the reported AM cDNA sequences from bovine aortic endothelial cells. However, a difference in one amino acid was found in the sequences of signal peptide. In addition, three different residues of nucleotides were found in the noncoding region of cDNA encoding bovine preproadreno-medullin.

AM(11–26) elicited a potent hypertensive effects in unanesthetized rats.
When AM(11–26) at 20 nmol/kg was injected i.v., the maximum increase of mean blood pressure was 50  7.1 mmHg. Similarly, the synthetic AM(11–26) produced dose-dependent strong pressor responses in unanesthetized rats in vivo. (Blood pressure increase; F(3, 20 = 13.845, P < 0.0001). Injection of saline did not affects blood pressure and heart rate. The hypertensive activity lasted about 70 s, and a dose dependent increase of heart rate was also observed (Heart rate increase; F(3, 20) = 6.151, P = 0.0039).

We have isolated and characterized bovine AM(11–26) from bovine adrenal medulla as an endogenous peptide. The hallmark biological effects of AM are vasodilation and hypotensive effects in the vascular systems of most species. The mature form of AM has one ring structure formed by an intramolecular disulfide bond and a C terminal amide structure, both of which are essential for the hypotensive and other biological activities of AM. Watanabe et al. reported that the synthetic N-terminal fragment of human AM, AM (1–25)COOH and other related peptides, show vasopressor activity in anesthetized rats. The present purification and characterization of AM(11–26) indicate that the ring structure of AM may function as a biologically active endogenous peptide. The peptide corresponding to Mr 1,500 Da was further purified to homogeneity.

The purified peptide was found to be AM(11–26) which has one intramolecular disulfide bond. The structure of AM(11–26) was confirmed by chromatographic comparison with native AM(11–26) as well as a synthetic specimen which was prepared according to the determined sequence. The structure of bovine AM and related peptides were determined by cDNA analysis encoding bovine AM. Bovine AM consists of 52 amino acids whose sequence is identical to the human sequences with the exception of four amino acids. Furthermore, according to the cDNA analysis and chromatographic comparison of the synthetic AM(11–26) and purified AM, is now determined to be cystine. It should be noted that the structure of bovine AM(11–26) is identical to human AM(11–26).

It is well known that many peptide hormones and neuropeptides are processed from larger, biologically inactive precursors by the specific processing enzyme. It usually recognizes pairs of basic amino acids, processing signals, such as primarily Lys-Arg and Arg-Arg. AM (11–26) is not flanked by such a processing signal, but it was reproducibly observed in bovine adrenal medulla peptide extract. The molar ratio of AM(11–26)/AM was estimated to be 40%. The ratio varied from 5% to 50% according to the individual specimen, but the minor peak corresponding to 1,500 Da was reproducibly observed, suggesting that AM(11–26) is an endogenous peptide. It is likely that AM(11–26) is biosynthesized from AM or AM precursor by a specific enzyme.

In contrast to AM, synthetic bovine AM(11–26) caused potent hypertensive effects in unanesthetized rats. The hypertensive activity of AM(11–26) seems to be comparable to that of AM(1–25) as reported by Watanabe et al.  It was unexpected that AM(11–26) would cause a dose dependent increase of heart rate in unanesthetized rats because vasopressor activity normally causes bradycardia through baroreceptor activation. The hypertensive mechanism is not fully understood, but it has been reported that the vasopressor effect of AM(1–25) might be caused by the release of endogenous catecholamine. We speculate that the released catecholamine counters the baroreceptor function resulting in an increased heart rate and blood pressure. It is possible that AM(11–26) participates in blood pressure control as an endogenous peptide.

A review of the biological properties and clinical implications of adrenomedullin and proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP), hypotensive and vasodilating peptides.

Tanenao Eto
Peptides 22 (2001) 1693–1711 PII: S0196-9781(01)00513-7

Adrenomedullin (AM), identified from pheochromocytoma and having 52 amino acids, elicits a long-lasting vasodilatation and diuresis. AM is mainly mediated by the intracellular adenylate cyclase coupled with cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) and nitric oxide (NO) -cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway through its specific receptor. The calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CLCR) and receptor-activity modifying protein (RAMP) 2 or RAMP3 models have been proposed as the candidate receptor. AM is produced mainly in cardiovascular tissues in response to stimuli such as shear stress and stretch, hormonal factors and cytokines. Recently established AM knockout mice lines revealed that AM is essential for development of vitelline vessels of embryo. Plasma AM levels elevate in cardiovascular diseases such as heart failure, hypertension and septic shock, where AM may play protective roles through its characteristic biological activities. Human AM gene delivery improves hypertension, renal function, cardiac hypertrophy and nephrosclerosis in the hypertensive rats. AM decreases cardiac preload and afterload and improves cardiac contractility and diuresis in patients with heart failure and hypertension. Advances in gene engineering and receptor studies may contribute to further understandings of biological implication and therapeutic availability of AM.

AM acts as a circulating hormone as well as elicits multiple biological activities in a paracrine or autocrine manner. Among them the most characteristic biological activity of AM is a very powerful hypotensive activity caused by dilatation of resistance vessels. A sensitive and specific radioimmunoassay demonstrated that AM circulates in blood and occurs in a variety of tissues. Plasma AM levels elevate in various diseases including cardiovascular and renal disorders or septic shock. Thus, AM may be involved in pathophysiological processes in these diseases, especially in disorders controlling circulation and body fluid. In this short review, the history of AM and proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP) will be reviewed with special references to biological properties and function, receptors, gene engineering and clinical viewpoints. This review includes oral presentations from the aforementioned symposium; some of which have not yet been published. These unpublished oral presentations are quoted in this paper from the abstracts of this symposium.

Preproadrenomedullin, which consists of 185 amino acids and contains a 21-amino acid signal peptide, is processed to synthesize proadrenomedullin and finally AM. In the proadrenomedullin, a unique twenty amino acid sequence followed by a typical amidation signal known as Gly-Lys-Arg, is included in the N-terminal region. This novel 20 residues peptide with carboxyl terminus of Arg-CONH2 is also present in vivo and is termed “proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP).” PAMP elicits a potent hypotensive activity in anesthetized rats.

Although widely distributed in the adenophypophysis and the neural lobe of pituitary glands, AM and PAMP occur in cell-specific, but not overlapping, patterns in the anterior pituitary. This cell-specific expression of each peptide may be explained by differences in posttranslational processing of AM gene. As such, potential pituitary specific transcription factor binding sites, gonadotropic-specific element (GSE) and a binding site for steroidogenic factor-l (SF-1) are found in the 5flanking region of human and mouse AM gene.  SF-1 is a member of the steroid receptor superfamily that has been shown necessary for gonadotrope differentiation within the pituitary. In addition, one putative binding sequence of Pit-1 has been reported in mouse AM gene promoter position.

A specific AM binding protein (AMBP-1) in human plasma was isolated and the purified protein was identified as human complement factor H. AM and factor H interaction may interfere with the radioimmunoassay quantification of circulating AM. Factor H enhances AM-mediated induction of cAMP in fibroblast; augments the AM-mediated growth of a cancer cell line; and suppresses the bactericidal capability of AM on Escherichia coli. Conversely, AM influences the complement regulatory function of factor H by enhancing the cleavage of C3b via factor I. The augmentation of AM actions indicates that AMBP may facilitate the binding of AM to its receptor. In addition, the existence of AMBP suggests that large amounts of AM may circulate bound to this plasma protein.

In rat vascular smooth muscle cells, the CGRP, CGRP1 receptor antagonist, competitively inhibits the intracellular accumulation of cAMP induced by AM. Vasodilation of the rat mesenteric vascular bed elicited by AM and CGRP is also blocked by CGRP. Similar effects of CGRP are observed in the isolated rat heart and its microvasculature. Thus, CGRP1 receptor can mediate some effects of AM, but AM has a low affinity at CGRP2 receptor. Two distinct AM labeled bands with a molecular weight of 120 and 70 kDa was reported in the cultured rat vascular smooth muscle cell membrane. Therefore, the binding specificity and characteristics of the AM receptor may differ regionally by organ or tissue.

Two more RAMP proteins, RAMP2 and RAMP3, were discovered from database searches. These proteins share approximately 30% homology with RAMP1. Co-expression of RAMP2 or RAMP3 with CRLR appears to constitute AM receptor. RAMP2 and RAMP3 are indistinguishable in terms of AM binding. The RAMPs are required to transport CRLR to the plasma membrane. RAMP1 presents CRLR as a mature glycoprotein at the cell surface to form a CGRP receptor. However, receptors transported by RAMP2 or RAMP3 are core glycosylated and then become AM receptors. Three putative N-glycosylation sites Asn 60, Asn 112 and Asn 117 are present in the amino-terminal extracellular domain of the human CRLR. When the glycosylation of a myc-tagged CRLR was inhibited, specific 125I-CGRP and -AM binding were blocked in parallel. Substitution of the Asn 117 by threonine abolished CGRP and AM binding in the face of intact N-glycosylation and cell surface expression. RAMPs are accessory proteins of CTR and CRLR at the cell surface where they define AM, amylin, calcitonin and CGRP specificity.

The receptor component protein (RCP) was cloned on the basis of its ability to potentiate the endogenous Xenopus oocyte CGRP receptor. RCP is a cytosolic protein with no similarity to RAMPs, consists of a hydrophobic 146 amino acids and is obtained from the Corti organ of guinea pig. RCF plays an essential role for signal-transduction of CGRP and AM, and interacts with CRLR directly within the cells. Thus, a functional AM or CGRP receptor seems to consist of at least three proteins: CRLR, RAMP and RCP, coupling the receptor to the intracellular signal-transduction pathway.

By using a chimera of the CRLR and green fluorescent protein (GFP), the study demonstrated that CRLR-GFP failed to generate responses to CGRP or AM without RAMP2 or RAMP3 in HEK 293 cells. When coexpressed with RAMP2 or RAMP3, CRLR-GFP appeared on the cell membrane and activated an intracellular cAMP production and calcium mobilization. Agonist-mediated internalization of CRLR-GFP was observed in RAMP1/CGRP or AM, RAMP2/AM, and RAMP3/AM, which occurred with similar kinetics, indicating the existence of ligand-specific regulation of CRLR internalization by RAMPs.

The discovery of RAMPs has promoted our understandingthat some of the biological activities of AM are blocked by CGRP receptor antagonist, whereas other biological activities are blocked only by AM receptor antagonist, which indicates the possible existence of AM receptor in dual nature. RAMP association with CRLR traffics this receptor to the cell surface where individual RAMPs dictate the expression of unique phenotypes such as CGRP receptor or AM receptors. Apart from receptor trafficking and glycosylation, the RAMPs may interact directly with the receptors in the cell surface modifying their affinities for the ligands.

Since AM was discovered by monitoring the elevating activity of cAMP in rat platelets, cAMP appears to be its major second messenger. Dose-dependent intracellular production of cAMP induced by AM has been confirmed in various tissues and cells. Moreover, information on the role of NO in alternative signal-transduction pathways for AM is available.

The vasodilating effect of AM is reduced by the blockade of NO synthetase activity with NG-nitro-L-arginine methylester (L-NAME), indicating that NO may at least partly contribute to the AM-induced vasodilation. However, the degree of NO contribution to vasodilation varies depending upon the organ or tissue and the species. NO synthetase inhibitor in the pulmonary vascular beds of rat significantly attenuates the AM-induced vasodilation, but it does not occur in cats. Thus, NO seems to be an important AM mediator despite regional and interspecies variation.

In bovine aortic endothelial cells, AM increases intracellular ionic calcium (Ca2+) and causes the accumulation of cAMP. This increase in intracellular Ca2+ may be involved in the activation of phospholipase C, thereby producing inducible NO synthetase and subsequently NO. NO transferred to medial smooth muscle cells may activate cGMP-mediating smooth muscle cells vasodilatation. In contrast, AM lowers both cytosolic Ca2+ and Ca2+ sensitivity in smooth muscle cells of pig coronary arteries and intracellular Ca2+ in rat renal arterial smooth muscle cells.

Among the multi-functional properties of AM, the most characteristic one is an intensive, long-lasting hypotension that is dose-dependent in humans, rats, rabbits, dogs, cats and sheep. AM dilates resistance vessels in the kidneys, brain, lung, hindlimbs in animals as well as in the mesentery. Moreover, AM elicits relaxation of ring preparations of the aorta and cerebral arteries. An i.v. injection of human AM to conscious sheep causes a dose dependent fall of blood pressure, an increase in heart rate and cardiac output with a small reduction in stroke volume, as well as a marked decrease in total peripheral resistance. Coronary blood flow increases in parallel with the increase in coronary conductance. These cardiovascular responses return to the control level by 40 min after the injection.

The low-dose infusion of AM administered to conscious sheep on a low-salt diet antagonizes the vasopressor actions of administered angiotensin II while stimulating cardiac output and heart rate. AM may control cardiovascular homeostasis in part through antagonism of the vasopressor action of angiotensin II. AM inhibits the secretion of endothelin-1 from the vascular endothelial cells and proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells. In the cultured cardiomyocytes as well as cardiac fibroblasts, AM inhibits protein synthesis in these cells in an autocrine or a paracrine manner, which may result in modulating the cardiac growth. AM inhibits bronchial constriction induced by acetylcholine or histamine in a dose-dependent  manner, indicating the important role of AM on airway function and its usefulness for the management of bronchial asthma. AM inhibits secretion of aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. When infused directly into the adrenal arterial supply of conscious sheep, AM directly inhibits the acute stimulation of aldosterone by angiotensin II,  KCl and ACTH while not affecting basal or chronic aldosterone secretion or cortisol secretion stimulated by ACTH. AM co-exists in insulin-producing cells and it inhibits insulin secretion dose-dependently in isolated rat islets.

The N-terminal region of preproadrenomedullin, the precursor of AM, contains a unique 20-residue sequence followed by Gly-Lys-Arg, a typical amidation signal, which was termed as proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP). PAMP was purified from porcine adrenal medulla and human pheochromo-cytoma by using radioimmunoassay for the peptide and its complete amino acid sequence was determined. In addition to the original form of PAMP [1–20], PAMP [9–20] has recently been purified from the bovine adrenal medulla. The amino acid sequences of both forms of PAMP are identical to amino acid sequences deduced by cDNA analysis and their carboxyl terminus of Arg is amidated. The distribution of PAMP is similar to that of human AM, due to the fact that PAMP as well as human AM is biosynthesized from an AM precursor.

AM is processed from its precursor, proadrenomedullin, as the intermediate or immature form, AM-glycine (AM[1–52]-COOH, immature AM). Subsequently, immature AM is converted to the biologically active mature form, AM [1–52]-CONH2 (mature AM) by enzymatic amidation. The AM circulating in the human blood stream (total AM), thus, consists of both mature AM and immature AM. In earlier studies, plasma AM levels were measured by using radioimmunoassay recognizing the entire AM molecule (AM [1–52]), which reflects plasma total AM levels, as previously described.

In healthy volunteers severe exercise elevates the plasma AM levels with an increase in plasma norepinephrine and exaggerated sympathetic nerve activity. In heart transplant recipients, maximal exercise induces an increase in plasma AM that is inversely related to mean blood pressure. AM, therefore, may participate in blood pressure regulation during exercise even after heart transplantation.

When compared with healthy controls, the plasma AM levels are increased in patients with a variety of diseases: congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, renal diseases, hypertensive diseases, diabetes mellitus, acute phase of stroke, and septic shock.

Adrenomedullin and central cardiovascular regulation

Meghan M. Taylor, Willis K. Samson
Peptides 22 (2001) 1803–1807 PII: S0196-9781(01)00522-8

Adrenomedullin gene products have been localized to neurons in brain that innervate sites known to be important in the regulation of cardiovascular function. Those sites also have been demonstrated to possess receptors for the peptide and central administrations of adrenomedullin (AM) and proadrenomedullin N-terminal 20 peptide (PAMP) elevate blood pressure and heart rate in both conscious and anesthetized animals. The accumulated evidence points to a role of the sympathetic nervous system in these cardiovascular effects. These sympathostimulatory actions of AM and PAMP have been hypothesized to be cardioprotective in nature and to reflect the central nervous system (CNS) equivalent of the direct cardiostimulatory effects of the peptides in the periphery. This review summarizes the most recent data on the CNS actions of the adrenomedullin gene-derived peptides and suggests future strategies for the elucidation of the physiologic relevance of the already demonstrated, pharmacologic actions of these peptides.

Adrenomedullin and related peptides: receptors and accessory proteins

Roman Muff, Walter Born, Jan A. Fischer
Peptides 22 (2001) 1765–1772  PII: S0196-9781(01)00515-0
Adrenomedullin (AM), α- and β-calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP), amylin and calcitonin (CT) are structurally and functionally related peptides. The structure of a receptor for CT (CTR) was elucidated in 1991 through molecular cloning, but the structures of the receptors for the other three peptides had yet to be elucidated. The discovery of receptor-activity-modifying proteins (RAMP) 1 and -2 and their co-expression with an orphan receptor, calcitonin receptor-like receptor (CRLR) has led to the elucidation of functional CGRP and AM receptors, respectively. RAMP1 and -3 which are co-expressed with CTR revealed two amylin receptor isotypes. Molecular interactions between CRLR and RAMPs are involved in their transport to the cell surface. Heterodimeric complexes between CRLR or CTR and RAMPs are required for ligand recognition.

Pharmacological profiles of receptors of the adrenomedullin peptidefamily
AMR AM>CGRP>>amylin=CT
CTR CT>amylin>>CGRP=AM
AmylinR AmylinsCT­CGRP>>hCT>AM

Specific AM binding sites have been identified in many tissues including the heart, blood vessels, lung and spleen. Based on pharmacological evidence two receptor isotypes have been distinguished, for instance in rat astrocytes and NG108–15 cells. One AM receptor isotype recognizes CGRP and CGRP(8–37). The other receptor isotype specific for the AM ligand and antagonized by AM(22–52) does not recognize CGRP to any great extent. Both isotypes of the receptors have been shown to interact poorly with amylin and CT (Table). Biological actions of AM include vaso- and bronchodilation, and CNS transmitted inhibition of water intake.

CGRP receptors are widely distributed in the nervous and cardiovascular systems. To date, two isotypes have been described. On pharmacological evidence, CGRP1 receptors, such as those identified in human SK-N-MC neuroblastoma cells, recognize intact CGRP and CGRP(8–37) with similar potency, unlike a linear analog lacking the disulfide bridge. CGRP2 receptors,
on the other hand, interact with the linear analog but not with CGRP(8–37). These CGRP receptor isotypes cross-react with AM to some extent, but only minimally with amylin and CT. CGRP shares potent vasodilatory actions with AM, and has chronotropic and inotropic actions in the heart. The ionotropic actions are indirectly brought about via activation of the sympathetic nervous system. There is evidence to suggest the existence of α- or β-CGRP preferring receptor isotypes in both the central nervous system and peripheral tissues.

RAMP1, -2 and -3 are widely expressed, suggesting that RAMPs may have
important functions beyond those of the adrenomedullin family of receptors. To this end, RAMP1 and -3 are thought to reduce cell surface expression of angiotensin (AT) AT1 and AT2 receptors.

RAMP2 and CRLR are expressed in vascular smooth muscle cells, and RAMP1 expression was increased by dexamethasone. Moreover, increased levels of RAMP2 and CRLR were observed in the kidney and heart of rats with obstructive nephropathy and congestive heart failure, respectively. RAMP2
and CRLR levels were reduced, and RAMP3 levels were increased during lipopolysaccharide induced sepsis in rats.

The GABAB receptor 1 is retained as an immature glycoprotein in the cytosol unless co-expressed with GABAB receptor 2 isotype. Heterodimers of fully functional opioid receptors δ and κ result in a novel receptor displaying binding and functional properties distinct from those of the δ or κ receptors alone. Heterodimerization therefore facilitates receptor expression and defines ligand specificity also in G protein-coupled receptor families A and C. Moreover, heterodimers of metabotropic glutamate 1receptor (family C) and adenosine A1 receptors (family A) have been observed. As yet there is no evidence for homo or heterodimerization of family B receptors. Cysteines conserved in the extracellular N-terminal domain in all the receptors of family B and RAMPs suggest that RAMPs are truncated forms of receptors that interact as heterodimers with CRLR and CTR.

The discovery of RAMPs in combination with CRLR and CTR has led to the molecular identification of CGRP1, CGRP/amylin, AM and amylin receptor complexes. The physiological advantage of heterodimers between seven transmembrane domain receptors and the RAMPs required for the functional expression of the adrenomedullin, CGRP and amylin receptors remains to be demonstrated.

Angiotensin II, From Vasoconstrictor to Growth Factor: A Paradigm Shift

Sasa Vukelic, Kathy K. Griendling
Circ Res. 2014;114:754-757

Angiotensin II (Ang II) is today considered as one of the essential factors in the pathophysiology of cardiovascular disease, producing acute hemodynamic and chronic pleiotropic effects. Although now it is widely accepted that these chronic effects are important, Ang II was initially considered only a short-acting, vasoactive hormone. This view was modified a quarter of a century ago when Dr Owens and his group published an article in Circulation Research with initial evidence that Ang II can act as a growth factor that regulates cell hypertrophy. They showed in a series of elegant experiments that Ang II promotes hypertrophy and hyperploidy of cultured rat aortic smooth muscle cells. However, Ang II had no effect on hyperplasia. These findings led to a paradigm shift in our understanding of the roles of growth factors and vasoactive substances in cardiovascular pathology and helped to redirect basic and clinical renin–angiotensin system research during the next 25 years. Ang II is now known to be a pleiotropic hormone that uses multiple signaling pathways to influence most processes that contribute to the development and progression of cardiovascular diseases, ranging from hypertrophy, endothelial dysfunction, cardiac remodeling, fibrosis, and inflammation to oxidative stress.


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Introduction to Signaling

Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


We have laid down a basic structure and foundation for the remaining presentations.  It was essential to begin with the genome, which changed the course of teaching of biology and medicine in the 20th century, and introduced a central dogma of translation by transcription.  Nevertheless, there were significant inconsistencies and unanswered questions entering the twenty first century, accompanied by vast improvements in technical advances to clarify these issues. We have covered carbohydrate, protein, and lipid metabolism, which function in concert with the development of cellular structure, organ system development, and physiology.  To be sure, the progress in the study of the microscopic and particulate can’t be divorced from the observation of the whole.  We were left in the not so distant past with the impression of the Sufi story of the elephant and the three blind men, who one at a time held the tail, the trunk, and the ear, each proclaiming that it was the elephant.

I introduce here a story from the Brazilian biochemist, Jose

Eduardo des Salles Rosalino, on a formativr experience he had with the Nobelist, Luis Leloir.

Just at the beginning, when phosphorylation of proteins is presented, I assume you must mention that some proteins are activated by phosphorylation. This is fundamental in order to present self –organization reflex upon fast regulatory mechanisms. Even from an historical point of view. The first observation arrived from a sample due to be studied on the following day of glycogen synthetase. It was unintended left overnight out of the refrigerator. The result was it has changed from active form of the previous day to a non-active form. The story could have being finished here, if the researcher did not decide to spent this day increasing substrate levels (it could be a simple case of denaturation of proteins that changes its conformation despite the same order of amino acids). He kept on trying and found restoration of maximal activity. This assay was repeated with glycogen phosphorylase and the result was the opposite – it increases its activity. This led to the discovery

  • of cAMP activated protein kinase and
  • the assembly of a very complex system in the glycogen granule
  • that is not a simple carbohydrate polymer.

Instead, it has several proteins assembled and

  • preserves the capacity to receive from a single event (rise in cAMP)
  • two opposing signals with maximal efficiency,
  • stops glycogen synthesis,
  • as long as levels of glucose 6 phosphate are low
  • and increases glycogen phosphorylation as long as AMP levels are high).

I did everything I was able to do by the end of 1970 in order to repeat the assays with PK I, PKII and PKIII of M. Rouxii and using the Sutherland route to cAMP failed in this case. I then asked Leloir to suggest to my chief (SP) the idea of AA, AB, BB subunits as was observed in lactic dehydrogenase (tetramer) indicating this as his idea. The reason was my “chief”(SP) more than once, had said to me: “Leave these great ideas for the Houssay, Leloir etc…We must do our career with small things.” However, as she also had a faulty ability for recollection she also used to arrive some time later, with the very same idea but in that case, as her idea.
Leloir, said to me: I will not offer your interpretation to her as mine. I think it is not phosphorylation, however I think it is glycosylation that explains the changes in the isoenzymes with the same molecular weight preserved. This dialogue explains why during the reading and discussing “What is life” with him he asked me if as a biochemist in exile, talking to another biochemist, I expressed myself fully. I had considered that Schrödinger would not have confronted Darlington & Haldane because he was in U.K. in exile. This might explain why Leloir could have answered a bad telephone call from P. Boyer, Editor of The Enzymes, in a way that suggested that the pattern could be of covalent changes over a protein. Our FEBS and Eur J. Biochemistry papers on pyruvate kinase of M. Rouxii is wrongly quoted in this way on his review about pyruvate kinase of that year (1971).


Another aspect I think you must call attention to the following. Show in detail with different colors what carbons belongs to CoA, a huge molecule in comparison with the single two carbons of acetate that will produce the enormous jump in energy yield

  • in comparison with anaerobic glycolysis.

The idea is

  • how much must have been spent in DNA sequences to build that molecule in order to use only two atoms of carbon.

Very limited aspects of biology could be explained in this way. In case we follow an alternative way of thinking, it becomes clearer that proteins were made more stable by interaction with other molecules (great and small). Afterwards, it’s rather easy to understand how the stability of protein-RNA complexes where transmitted to RNA (vibrational +solvational reactivity stability pair of conformational energy).

Millions of years later, or as soon as, the information of interaction leading to activity and regulation could be found in RNA, proteins like reverse transcriptase move this information to a more stable form (DNA). In this way it is easier to understand the use of CoA to make two carbon molecules more reactive.

The discussions that follow are concerned with protein interactions and signaling.

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Nitric Oxide Function in Coagulation – Part II

Curator and Author: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP


Subtitle: Nitric oxide in hemostatic and bleeding mechanisms.  Part II.


Summary: This is the second of a coagulation series on PharmaceuticalIntelligence(  treating the diverse effects of NO on platelets, the coagulation cascade, and protein-membrane interactions with low flow states, local and systemic inflammatory disease, oxidative stress, and hematologic disorders.  It is highly complex as the distinction between intrinsic and extrinsic pathways become blurred as a result of  endothelial shear stress, distinctly different than penetrating or traumatic injury.  In addition, other factors that come into play are also considered.

Please refer to Part I.

Coagulation Pathway

The workhorse tests of the modern coagulation laboratory, the prothrombin time (PT) and the activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT), are the basis for the published extrinsic and intrinsic coagulation pathways.  This is, however, a much simpler model than one encounters delving into the mechanism and interactions involved in hemostasis and thrombosis, or in hemorrhagic disorders.

We first note that there are three components of the hemostatic system in all vertebrates:

  • Platelets,
  • vascular endothelium, and
  • plasma proteins.

The liver is the largest synthetic organ, which synthesizes

  • albumin,
  • acute phase proteins,
  • hormonal and metal binding proteins,
  • albumin,
  • IGF-1, and
  • prothrombin, mainly responsible for the distinction between plasma and serum (defibrinated plasma).

Role of vascular endothelium.

I have identified the importance of prothrombin, thrombin, and the divalent cation Ca 2+ (1% of the total body pool), mention of heparin action, and of vitamin K (inhibited by warfarin).  Endothelial functions are inherently related to procoagulation and anticoagulation. The subendothelial matrix is a complex of many materials, most important related to coagulation being collagen and von Willebrand factor.

What about extrinsic and intrinsic pathways?  Tissue factor, when bound to factor VIIa, is the major activator of the extrinsic pathway of coagulation. Classically, tissue factor is not present in the plasma but only presented on cell surfaces at a wound site, which is “extrinsic” to the circulation.  Or is it that simple?

Endothelium is the major synthetic and storage site for von Willebrand factor (vWF).  vWF is…

  • secreted from the endothelial cell both into the plasma and also
  • abluminally into the subendothelial matrix, and
  • acts as the intercellular glue binding platelets to one another and also to the subendothelial matrix at an injury site.
  • acts as a carrier protein for factor VIII (antihemophilic factor).
  • It  binds to the platelet glycoprotein Ib/IX/V receptor and
  • mediates platelet adhesion to the vascular wall under shear. [Lefkowitz JB. Coagulation Pathway and Physiology. Chapter I. in Hemostasis Physiology. In ( ???), pp1-12].

Ca++ and phospholipids are necessary for all of the reactions that result in the activation of prothrombin to thrombin. Coagulation is initiated by an extrinsic mechanism that

  • generates small amounts of factor Xa, which in turn
  • activates small amounts of thrombin.

The tissue factor/factorVIIa proteolysis of factor X is quickly inhibited by tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI).The small amounts of thrombin generated from the initial activation feedback

  • to create activated cofactors, factors Va and VIIIa, which in turn help to
  • generate more thrombin.
  • Tissue factor/factor VIIa is also capable of indirectly activating factor X through the activation of factor IX to factor IXa.
  • Finally, as more thrombin is created, it activates factor XI to factor XIa, thereby enhancing the ability to ultimately make more thrombin.

The reconceptualization of hemostasis 

The common theme in activation and regulation of plasma coagulation is the reduction in dimensionality. Most reactions take place in a 2D world that will increase the efficiency of the reactions dramatically. The localization and timing of the coagulation processes are also dependent on the formation of protein complexes on the surface of membranes. The coagulation processes can also be controlled by certain drugs that destroy the membrane binding ability of some coagulation proteins – these proteins will be lost in the 3D world and not able to form procoagulant complexes on surfaces.

Assembly of proteins on membranes – making a 3D world flat

• The timing and efficiency of coagulation processes are handled by reduction in dimensionality

– Make 3 dimensions to 2 dimensions

• Coagulation proteins have membrane binding capacity

• Membranes provide non-coagulant and procoagulant surfaces

– Intact cells/activated cells

• Membrane binding is a target for anticoagulant drugs

– Anti-vitamin K (e.g. warfarin)

Modern View

It can be divided into the phases of initiation, amplification and propagation.

  • In the initiation phase, small amounts of thrombin can be formed after exposure of tissue factor to blood.
  • In the amplification phase, the traces of thrombin will be inactivated or used for amplification of the coagulation process.

At this stage there is not enough thrombin to form insoluble fibrin. In order to proceed further thrombin  activates platelets, which provide a procoagulant surface for the coagulation factors. Thrombin will also activate the vital cofactors V and VIII that will assemble on the surface of activated platelets. Thrombin can also activate factor XI, which is important in a feedback mechanism.

In the final step, the propagation phase, the highly efficient tenase and prothrombinase complexes have been assembled on the membrane surface. This yields large amounts of thrombin at the site of injury that can cleave fibrinogen to insoluble fibrin. Factor XI activation by thrombin then activates factor IX, which leads to the formation of more tenase complexes. This ensures enough thrombin is formed, despite regulation of the initiating TF-FVIIa complex, thus ensuring formation of a stable fibrin clot. Factor XIII stabilizes the fibrin clot through crosslinking when activated by thrombin.

Platelet Aggregation

The activities of adenylate and guanylate cyclase and cyclic nucleotide 3′:5′-phosphodiesterase were determined during the aggregation of human blood platelets with

  • thrombin, ADP,
  • arachidonic acid and
  • epinephrine.

[Aggregation is dependent on an intact release mechanism since inhibition of aggregation occurred with adenosine, colchicine, or EDTA.  (Herman GE, Seegers WH, Henry RL. Autoprothrombin ii-a, thrombin, and epinephrine: interrelated effects on platelet aggregation. Bibl Haematol 1977;44:21-7)].

  1. The platelet guanylate cyclase activity during aggregation depends on the nature and mode of action of the inducing agent.
  2. The membrane adenylate cyclase activity during aggregation is independent of the aggregating agent and is associated with a reduction of activity and
  3. Cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterase remains unchanged during the process of platelet aggregation and release.

The role of platelets in arterial thrombosis

Formation of a thrombus on a ruptured plaque is the product of a complex interaction between coagulation factors in the plasma and platelets.

  • Tissue factor (TF) released from the subendothelial tissue after endothelial damage induces a cascade of activation of coagulation factors ultimately leading to the formation of thrombin.
  • Thrombin cleaves fibrinogen to fibrin, which assembles into a mesh that supports the platelet aggregates.

The Platelet

The platelets are …

  • anucleated,
  • discoid shaped cell fragments
  • originating from megakaryocytes
  •  fragmented as they are released from the bone marrow

Whether they can in circumstances be developed at extramedullary sites (liver sinusoid) is another matter. They have a lifespan of 7-10 days.  Of special interest is:

  • They have a network of internal membranes forming a dense tubular system and the open canalicular system (OCS).
  • The plasma membrane is an extension of the OCS, thereby greatly increasing the surface area of the platelet.
  • The dense tubular system is comparable to the endoplasmatic reticulum in other cell types and is the main storage place of the majority of the platelet’s Ca2+.

Three types of secretory granules exist in platelets:

  • the dense granules
    •  In the dense granules serotonin
    • adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and
    • Ca2+ are stored.
    • a-granules contain
      • P-selectin,
      • fibrinogen,
      •  thrombospondin,
      • Von Willebrand Factor,
      • platelet factor 4 and
      • platelet derived growth factor
      • lysosomes.

Circulating platelets are kept in a resting state by endothelial cell derived

  • prostacyclin (PGI2) and
  • nitric oxide (NO).

PGI2 increases cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), the most potent platelet inhibitor.

Contact activation

The major regulator of the activation of the contact system is the plasma protease inhibitor, C1-INH, which inhibits activated fXII, kallikrein and fXIa. In addition, α2-macroglobulin is an important inhibitor of kallikrein and α1-antitrypsin for fXIa. Factor XII also converts the fXI to an active enzyme, fXIa, which, in turn, converts fIX to fIXa, thereby activating the intrinsic pathway of coagulation.


Several agonists can activate platelets;

  • ADP,
  • collagen,
  • thromboxane A2 (TxA2),
  • epinephrin,
  • serotonine and
  • thrombin,

which lead to activation previously referred to:

  • platelet shape change is
  • followed by aggregation and
  • granule secretion.

Upon activation the discoid shape changes into a spherical form.

Activation of platelets is increased by two positive feedback loops

  1. arachidonic acid is cleaved from phospholipids and transformed by cyclooxygenase

(COX) to prostaglandin G2 and H2,

  • followed by the formation of TxA2, a potent platelet agonist.

2.   the secretion of ADP by the dense granules,

  • resulting in activation of the ADP receptor P2Y12.

This causes inhibition of cyclic AMP and sustained aggregation.


The integrin receptor αIIbβ3 plays a vital role in platelet aggregation. The platelet agonists

  • induce a conformational change of the αIIbβ3 receptor and
  • exposition of binding domains for fibrinogen and von Willebrand Factor.

This allows cross-linking of platelets and the formation of aggregates.

In addition to shape change and aggregation, the membranes of the α- and dense granules fuse with the membranes of the OCS. This causes the release of their contents and the transportation of proteins embedded in their membrane to the plasma membrane.

This complex interaction between

  • endothelial cells
  • clotting factors
  • platelets and
  • other factors and cells

can be studied in both in vitro and in vivo model systems. The disadvantage of in vitro assays is that it studies the role of a certain protein or cell in isolation. Given the large number of participants and the complex interactions of thrombus formation there is need to study thrombosis and hemostasis in intact living animals, with all the components important for thrombus formation – a vessel wall and flowing blood – present.

Endothelial Damage and Role as “Primer”

  • Endothelial injury changes the permeability of the arterial wall.
  • This is followed by an influx of low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
  • This elicits an inflammatory response in the vascular wall.
  • Monocytes and T-cells bind to the endothelial cells promoting increased migration of the cells into the intima layer
  • The monocytes differentiate into macrophages, which take up modified lipoproteins and transform them into foam cells.
  • Concurrent with this process macrophages produce cytokines and proteases.

This is a vicious circle of lipid driven inflammation that leads to narrowing of the vessel’s lumen without early clinical consequences. Clinical manifestations of more advanced atherosclerotic disease are caused by destabilization of an atherosclerotic plaque formed as described.

  • The first recognizable lesion of the stable atherosclerotic plaque is the fatty streak, which consists of the above described foam cells and T-lymphocytes in the intima.
  • Further development of the lesion leads to the intermediate lesion, composed
  • of layers of macrophages and smooth muscle cells.
  • A more advanced stage is called the vulnerable plaque.
    • It has a large lipid core that is covered by a thin fibrous cap.
    • This cap separates the lipid contents of the plaque from the circulating blood.
    • The vulnerable plaque is prone to rupture, resulting in the formation of a thrombus on the site of disruption or the thrombus can be superimposed on plaque erosion without signs of plaque rupture.

The formation of a superimposed thrombus on a disrupted atherosclerotic plaque in the lumen of the artery leads to

  • an acute occlusion of the vessel
  • hypoxia of the downstream tissue.

Depending on the location of the atherosclerotic plaque this will cause a myocardial infarction, stroke or peripheral vascular disease.

Endothelial regulation of coagulation

The endothelium attenuates platelet activity by releasing

  • nitric oxide and
  • prostacyclin.

Several coagulation inhibitors are produced by endothelial cells.

Endothelium-derived TFPI (on its surface) is rapidly released into circulation after heparin administration, reducing the pro-coagulant activities of TF-fVIIa. Endothelial cells also secrete heparin-sulphate, a glycosaminoglycan which catalyzes anti-coagulant activity of AT. Plasma AT binds to heparin-sulphate located on the luminal surface and in the basement membrane of the endothelium. Thrombomodulin is another endothelium-bound protein with anti-coagulant and anti-inflammatory functions. In response to systemic pro-coagulant stimuli, tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) is transiently released from the Weibel-Palade bodies of endothelial cells to promote fibrinolysis. Downstream of the vascular injury, the complex of TF-fVIIa/fXa is inhibited by TFPI. Plasma (free) fXa and thrombin are rapidly neutralized by heparan-bound AT. Thrombin is also taken up by endothelial surface-bound thrombomodulin.

The protein C pathway works in hemostasis to control thrombin formation in the area surrounding the clot. Thrombin, generated via the coagulation pathway, is localized to the endothelium by binding to the integral membrane protein, thrombomodulin (TM). TM by occupying exosite I on thrombin, which is required for fibrinogen binding and cleavage, reduces thrombin’s pro-coagulant activities. TM bound thrombin  on the endothelial cell surface is able to cleave PC producing activated protein C (APC), a serine protease.  In the presence of protein S, APC inactivates FVa and FVIIIa. The proteolytic activity of APC is regulated predominantly by a protein C inhibitor.

Fibrinolytic pathway

Fibrinolysis is the physiological breakdown of fibrin to limit and resolve blood clots. Fibrin is degraded primarily by the serine protease, plasmin, which circulates as plasminogen. In an auto-regulatory manner, fibrin serves as both the co-factor for the activation of plasminogen and the substrate for plasmin. In the presence of fibrin, tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) cleaves plasminogen producing plasmin, which proteolyzes the fibrin. This reaction produces the protein fragment D-dimer, which is a useful marker of fibrinolysis, and a marker of thrombin activity because fibrin is cleaved from fibrinogen to fibrin.

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Energy Production

Nitric oxide (NO) has been increasingly recognized as an important intra- and intercellular messenger molecule with a physiological role in

  • vascular relaxation
  • platelet physiology
  • neurotransmission and
  • immune responses.

In vitro NO is a strong inhibitor of platelet adhesion and aggregation. In the blood stream, platelets remain in contact with NO that is permanently released from the endothelial cells and from activated macrophages. It  has been suggested that the activated platelet itself is able to produce NO. It has been proposed that the main intracellular target for NO in platelets is soluble cytosolic guanylate cyclase. NO activates the enzyme. When activated, intracellular cGMP elevation inhibits platelet activation. Further, elevated cGMP may not be the sole factor directly involved in the inhibition of platelet activation.

The reaction mechanism of Nitric oxide synthase
The reaction mechanism of Nitric oxide synthase (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Platelets are fairly active metabolically and have a total ATP turnover rate of about 3–8 times that of resting mammalian muscle. Platelets contain mitochondria which enable these cells to produce energy both in the oxidative and anaerobic pathways.

  • Under aerobic conditions, ATP is produced by aerobic glycolysis which can account for 30–50% of total ATP production,
  • by oxidative metabolism using glucose and glycogen (6–11%), amino-acids (7%) or free fatty acids (20–40%).

The inhibition of mitochondrial respiration by removing oxygen or by respiratory chain blockers (antimycin A, cyanide, rotenone) results in the stimulation of glycolytic flux. This phenomenon indicates that in platelets glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration are tightly functionally connected. It has been reported that the activation of human platelets by high concentration of thrombin is accompanied by an acceleration of lactate production and an increase in oxygen consumption.

The results (in porcine platelets) indicate that:

  • NO is able to diminish mitochondrial energy production through the inhibition of cytochrome oxidase
  • The inhibitory effect of NO on platelet secretion (but not aggregation) can be attributed to the reduction of mitochondrial energy production.

Porcine blood platelets stimulated by collagen produce more lactate. This indicates that both glycolytic and oxidative ATP production supports platelet responses, and blocking of energy production in platelets may decrease their responses. It is well established that platelet responses have different metabolic energy (ATP) requirements increasing in the order:

  • Aggregation
  • < dense and alfa granule secretion
  • < acid hydrolase secretion.

In addition, exogenously added NO (in the form of NO donors) stimulates glycolysis in intact porcine platelets. Since in platelets glycolysis and mitochondrial respiration are tightly functionally connected, this indicates the stimulatory effect of NO on glycolysis in intact platelets may be produced by non-functional mitochondria.

Can this be the case?

  • NO donors are able to inhibit both mitochondrial respiration and platelet cytochrome oxidase.
  • Interestingly, the concentrations of NO donors inhibiting mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome oxidase were similar to those stimulating glycolysis in intact platelets.

Studies have shown that mitochondrial complex I is inhibited only after a prolonged (6–18 h) exposure to NO and

  • This inhibition appears to result from S-nitrosylation of critical thiols in the enzyme complex.
  • Further studies are needed to establish whether long term exposure of platelets to NO affects Mitochondrial complexes I and II.

Comparison of the concentrations of SNAP and SNP affecting cytochrome oxidase activity and mitochondrial respiration with those reducing the platelet responses indicates that NO does not reduce platelet aggregation through the inhibition of oxidative energy production. The concentrations of the NO donors inhibiting platelet secretion, mitochondrial respiration and cytochrome oxidase were similar. Thus, the platelet release reaction strongly depends on the oxidative energy production, and  in porcine platelets NO inhibits mitochondrial energy production at the step of cytochrome oxidase.

Taking into account that platelets may contain NO synthase and are able to produce significant amounts of NO it seems possible that nitric oxide can function in these cells as a physiological regulator of mitochondrial energy production.

Key words: glycolysis, mitochondrial energy production, nitric oxide, porcine platelets.
Abbreviations: NO, nitric oxide; SNAP, S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicyllamine; SNP, sodium nitroprusside.

[M Tomasiak, H Stelmach, T Rusak and J Wysocka.  Nitric oxide and platelet energy metabolism.  Acta Biochimica Polonica 2004; 51(3):789–803.]

Nitric Oxide and Platelet Adhesion

The adhesion of human platelets to monolayers of bovine endothelial cells in culture was studied to determine the role of endothelium-derived nitric oxide in the regulation of platelet adhesion. The adhesion of unstimulated and thrombin-stimulated platelets, washed and labelled with indium-111, was lower in the presence than in the absence of bradykinin or exogenous nitric oxide. The inhibitory action of both bradykinin and nitric oxide was abolished by hemoglobin, but not by aspirin, and was potentiated by superoxide dismutase to a similar degree. It appears that the effect of bradykinin is mediated by the release of nitric oxide from the endothelial cells, and that nitric oxide release contributes to the non-adhesive properties of vascular endothelium.

(Radomski MW, Palmer RMJ, Moncada S.   Endogenous Nitric Oxide Inhibits Human Platelet Adhesion to Vascular Endothelium. The Lancet  1987 330; 8567(2): 1057–1058.

1 The interactions between endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) and prostacyclin as inhibitors of platelet aggregation were examined to determine whether release of NO accounts for the inhibition of platelet aggregation attributed to EDRF.

2 Porcine aortic endothelial cells treated with indomethacin and stimulated with bradykinin (10-100 nM) released NO in quantities sufficient to account for the inhibition of platelet aggregation attributed to endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF).

3 In the absence of indomethacin, stimulation of the cells with bradykinin (1-3 nM) released small amounts of prostacyclin and EDRF which synergistically inhibited platelet aggregation.

4 EDRF and authentic NO also caused disaggregation of platelets aggregated either with collagen or with U46619.

5 A reciprocal potentiation of both the anti- and the disaggregating activity was also observed between low concentrations of prostacyclin and authentic NO or EDRF released from endothelial cells.

6 It is likely that interactions between prostacyclin and NO released by the endothelium play a role in the homeostatic regulation of platelet-vessel wall interactions.

(Radomski MW, Palmer RMJ & Moncada S. The anti-aggregating properties of vascular endothelium: interactions between prostacyclin and nitric oxide. Br J Pharmac 1987; 92: 639-646.


Factor Xa–Nitric Oxide Signaling

Although primarily recognized for maintaining the hemostatic balance, blood proteases of the coagulation and fibrinolytic cascades elicit rapid cellular responses in

  • vascular
  • mesenchymal
  • inflammatory cell types.

Considerable effort has been devoted to elucidate the molecular interface between protease-dependent signaling and pleiotropic cellular responses. This led to the identification of several membrane protease receptors, initiating intracellular signal transduction and effector functions in vascular cells. In this context, thrombin receptor activation

  • generated second messengers in endothelium and smooth muscle cells,
  • released inflammatory cytokines from monocytes, fibroblasts, and endothelium, and
  • increased the expression of leukocyte-endothelial cell adhesion molecules.

Similarly, binding of factor Xa to effector cell protease receptor-1 (EPR-1) participated in

  • in vivo acute inflammatory responses,
  • platelet and brain pericyte prothrombinase activity, and
  • endothelial cell and smooth muscle cell signaling and proliferation.

Factor Xa stimulated a 5- to 10-fold increased release of nitric oxide (NO) in a dose-dependent reaction (0.1–2.5 mgyml) unaffected by the thrombin inhibitor hirudin but abolished by active site inhibitors, tick anticoagulant peptide, or Glu-Gly-Arg-chloromethyl ketone. In contrast, the homologous clotting protease factor IXa or another endothelial cell ligand, fibrinogen, was ineffective.

A factor Xa inter-epidermal growth factor synthetic peptide L83FTRKL88(G) blocking ligand binding to effector cell protease receptor-1 inhibited NO release by factor Xa in a dose-dependent manner, whereas a control scrambled peptide KFTGRLL was ineffective.

Catalytically active factor Xa induced hypotension in rats and vasorelaxation in the isolated rat mesentery, which was blocked by the NO synthase inhibitor L-NG-nitroarginine methyl ester (LNAME) but not by D-NAME. Factor Xa/NO signaling also produced a dose-dependent endothelial cell release of interleukin 6 (range 0.55–3.1 ngyml) in a reaction

  • inhibited by L-NAME and by the
  • inter-epidermal growth factor peptide Leu83–Leu88 but
  • unaffected by hirudin.
We observe that incubation of HUVEC monolayers with factor Xa which resulted in a concentration-dependent release of NO, as determined by cGMP accumulation in these cells, was inhibited by the nitric oxide synthase antagonist L-NAME.

Catalytically inactive DEGR-factor Xa or TAP-treated factor Xa failed to stimulate NO release by HUVEC.

To determine whether factor Xa-induced NO release could also modulate acute phase/inflammatory cytokine gene expression we examined potential changes in IL-6 release following HUVEC stimulation with factor Xa. HUVEC stimulation with factor Xa resulted in a concentration-dependent release of IL-6.

The specificity of factor Xa-induced cytokine release was investigated. Factor Xa-induced IL-6 release from HUVEC was quantitatively indistinguishable from that obtained with tumor necrosis factor-a or thrombin stimulation. This response was abolished by heat denaturation of factor Xa.

Maximal induction of interleukin 6 mRNA required a brief, 30-min stimulation with factor Xa, and was unaffected by subsequent addition of tissue factor pathway inhibitor (TFPI). These data suggest that factor Xa-induced NO release modulates endothelial cell-dependent vasorelaxation and IL-6 cytokine gene expression.

Here, we find that factor Xa induces the release of endothelial cell NO

  • regulating vasorelaxation in vivo and acute response cytokine gene expression in vitro.

This pathway requires a dual step cascade, involving

  • binding of factor Xa to EPR-1 and
  • a secondary as yet unidentified protease activated mechanism.

This pathway requiring factor Xa binding to effector cell protease receptor-1 and a secondary step of ligand-dependent proteolysis may preserve an anti-thrombotic phenotype of endothelium but also trigger acute phase responses during activation of coagulation in vivo.

In summary, these investigators have identified a signaling pathway centered on the ability of factor Xa to rapidly stimulate endothelial cell NO release. This involves a two-step cascade initiated by catalytic active site-independent binding of factor Xa to its receptor, EPR-1, followed by a second step of ligand dependent proteolysis.

(Papapetropoulos A, Piccardoni P, Cirino G, Bucci M, et al. Hypotension and inflammatory cytokine gene expression triggered by factor Xa–nitric oxide signaling. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA. Pharmacology. 1998; 95:4738–4742.)

Platelets and liver disease

Thrombocytopenia is a marked feature of chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Traditionally, this thrombocytopenia was attributed to passive platelet sequestration in the spleen. More recent insights suggest an increased platelet breakdown and to a lesser extent decreased platelet production plays a more important role. Besides the reduction in number, other studies suggest functional platelet defects. This platelet dysfunction is probably both intrinsic to the platelets and secondary to soluble plasma factors. It reflects not only a decrease in aggregability, but also an activation of the intrinsic inhibitory pathways. (Witters P, Freson K, Verslype C, Peerlinck K, et al. Review article: blood platelet number and function in chronic liver disease and cirrhosis. Aliment Pharmacol Ther 2008; 27: 1017–1029).

The shortcomings of the old Y-shaped model of normal coagulation are nowhere more apparent than in its clinical application to the complex coagulation disorders of acute and chronic liver disease. In this condition, the clotting cascade is heavily influenced by numerous currents and counter-currents resulting in a mixture of pro- and anticoagulant forces that are themselves further subject to change with altered physiological stress such as super-imposed infection or renal failure.

Multiple mechanisms exist for thrombocytopenia common in patients with cirrhosis besides hypersplenism and expected altered thrombopoietin metabolism. Increased production of two important endothelial derived platelet inhibitors

  • nitric oxide and
  • prostacyclin

may contribute to defective platelet activation in vivo. On the other hand, high plasma levels of vWF in cirrhosis appear to support platelet adhesion.

Reduced levels of coagulation factors V, VII, IX, X, XI, and prothrombin are also commonly observed in liver failure. Vitamin K–dependent clotting factors (II, VII, IX, X) may be defective in function as a result of decreased  y-carboxylation (from vitamin K deficiency or intrinsically impaired carboxylase activity). Fibrinogen levels are decreased with advanced cirrhosis and in patients with acute liver failure.

A hyperfibrinolytic state may develop when plasminogen activation by tPA is accelerated on the fibrin surface. Physiologic stress including infection may be key in tipping this process off through increased release of tPA.  Not uncommonly, laboratory abnormalities in decompensated cirrhosis come to resemble disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). Relatively stable platelet levels and characteristically high factor VIII levels distinguish this process from DIC as does the absence of uncompensated thrombin generation. The features of both hyperfibrinolysis and DIC are often evident in the decompensated liver disease patient, and the term “accelerated intravascular coagulation and fibrinolysis” (AICF) has been proposed as a way to encapsulate the process under a single heading. The essence of AICF can be postulated to be the result of formation of a fibrin clot that is more susceptible to plasmin degradation due to elevated levels of tPA coupled with inadequate release of PAI to control tPA and lack of a-2 plasmin inhibitor to quench plasmin activity and the maintenance of high local concentrations of plasminogen on clot surfaces despite lower total plasminogen production. These normally balanced processes become pronounced when disturbed by additional stress such as infection.

Normal hemostasis and coagulation is now viewed as primarily a cell-based process wherein key steps in the classical clotting cascade

  • occur on the phospholipid membrane surface of cells (especially platelets)
  • beginning with activation of tissue factor and factor VII at the site of vascular breach
    •  which produces an initial “priming” amount of thrombin and a
    • subsequent thrombin burst.

Coagulation and hemostasis in the liver failure patient is influenced by multiple, often opposing, and sometimes changing variables. A bleeding diathesis is usually predominant, but the assessment of bleeding risk based on conventional laboratory tests is inherently deficient.

(Caldwell SH, Hoffman M, Lisman T, Gail Macik B, et al. Coagulation Disorders and Hemostasis in Liver Disease: Pathophysiology and Critical Assessment of Current Management. Hepatology 2006;44:1039-1046.)

Bleeding after Coronary Artery bypass Graft

Cardiac surgery with concomitant CPB can profoundly alter haemostasis, predisposing patients to major haemorrhagic complications and possibly early bypass conduit-related thrombotic events as well. Five to seven percent of patients lose more than 2 litres of blood within the first 24 hours after surgery, between 1% and 5% require re-operation for bleeding. Re-operation for bleeding increases hospital mortality 3 to 4 fold, substantially increases post-operative hospital stay and has a sizeable effect on health care costs. Nevertheless, re-exploration is a strong risk factor associated with increased operative mortality and morbidity, including sepsis, renal failure, respiratory failure and arrhythmias.

(Gábor Veres. New Drug Therapies Reduce Bleeding in Cardiac Surgery. Ph.D. Doctoral Dissertation. 2010. Semmelweis University)

Hypercoagulable State in Thalassemia

As the life expectancy of β-thalassemia patients has increased in the last decade, several new complications are being recognized. The presence of a high incidence of thromboembolic events, mainly in thalassemia intermedia patients, has led to the identification of a hypercoagulable state in thalassemia. Patients with thalassemia intermedia (TI) have, in general, a milder clinical phenotype than those with TM and remain largely transfusion independent. The pathophysiology of TI is characterized by extravascular hemolysis, with the release into the peripheral circulation of damaged red blood cells (RBCs) and erythroid precursors because of a high degree of ineffective erythropoiesis. This has also been recently attributed to severe complications such as pulmonary hypertension (PHT) and thromboembolic phenomena.

Many investigators have reported changes in the levels of coagulation factors and inhibitors in thalassemic patients. Prothrombin fragment 1.2 (F1.2), a marker of thrombin generation, is elevated in TI patients. The status of protein C and protein S was investigated in thalassemia in many studies and generally they were found to be decreased; this might be responsible for the occurrence of thromboembolic events in thalassemic patients.

The pathophysiological roles of hemolysis and the dysregulation of nitric oxide homeostasis are correlated with pulmonary hypertension in sickle cell disease and in thalassemia. Nitric oxide binds soluble guanylate cyclase, which converts GTP to cGMP, relaxing vascular smooth muscle and causing vasodilatation. When plasma hemoglobin liberated from intravascularly hemolyzed sickle erythrocytes consumes nitric oxide, the balance is shifted toward vasoconstriction. Pulmonary hypertension is aggravated and in sickle cell disease, it is linked to the intensity of hemolysis. Whether the same mechanism contributes to hypercoagulability in thalassemia is not yet known.

While there are diverse factors contributing to the hypercoagulable state observed in patients with thalassemia. In most cases, a combination of these abnormalities leads to clinical thrombosis. An argument has been made for the a higher incidence of thrombotic events in TI compared to TM patients  attributed to transfusion for TM. The higher rate of thrombosis in transfusion-independent TI compared to polytransused TM patients suggests a potential role for transfusions in decreasing the rate of thromboembolic events (TEE). The reduction of TEE in adequately transfused patients may be the result of decreased numbers of pathological RBCs.

(Cappellini MD, Musallam KM,  Marcon A, and Taher AT. Coagulopathy in Beta-Thalassemia: Current Understanding and Future Prospects. Medit J Hemat Infect Dis 2009; 1(1):22009029.
DOI 10.4084/MJHID.2009.0292.0),  ISSN 2035-3006.)

Microvascular Endothelial Dysfunction

Severe sepsis, defined as sepsis associated with acute organ dysfunction, results from a generalized inflammatory and procoagulant host response to infection. Coagulopathy in severe sepsis is commonly associated with multiple organ dysfunction, and often results in death. The molecule that is central to these effects is thrombin, although it may also have anticoagulant and antithrombotic effects through the activation of Protein C and induction of prostacyclin. In recent years, it has been recognized that chemicals produced by endothelial cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis. Thrombomodulin on endothelial cells coverts Protein C to Activated Protein C, which has important antithrombotic, profibrinolytic and anti-inflammatory properties. A number of studies have shown that Protein C levels are reduced in patients with severe infection, or even in inflammatory states without infection. Because coagulopathy is associated with high mortality rates, and animal studies have indicated that therapeutic intervention may result in improved outcomes, it was rational to initiate clinical studies.

Considering the coagulation cascade as a whole, it is the extrinsic pathway (via TF and thrombin activation) rather than the intrinsic pathway that is of primary importance in sepsis. Once coagulation has been triggered by TF activation, leading to thrombin formation, this can have further procoagulant effects, because thrombin itself can activate factors VIII, IX and X. This is normally balanced by the production of anticoagulant factors, such as TF pathway inhibitor, antithrombin and Activated Protein C.

It has been recognized that endothelial cells play a key role in the pathogenesis of sepsis, and that they produce important regulators of both coagulation and inflammation. They can express or release a number of substances, such as TF, endothelin-1 and PAI-1, which promote the coagulation process, as well as other substances, such as antithrombin, thrombomodulin, nitric oxide and prostacyclin, which inhibit it.

Protein C is the source of Activated Protein C. Although Protein C is a biomarker or indicator of sepsis, it has no known specific biological activity. Protein C is converted to Activated Protein C in the presence of normal endothelium. In patients with severe sepsis, the vascular endothelium becomes damaged. The level of thrombomodulin is significantly decreased, and the body’s ability to convert Protein C to Activated Protein C diminishes. Only when activated does Protein C have antithrombotic, profibrinolytic and anti-inflammatory properties.

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pat...

Blood Coagulation (Thrombin) and Protein C Pathways (Blood_Coagulation_and_Protein_C_Pathways.jpg) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Coagulation abnormalities can occur in all types of infection, including both Gram-positive and Gram-negative bacterial infections, or even in the absence of infection, such as in inflammatory states secondary to trauma or neurosurgery. Interestingly, they can also occur in patients with localized disease, such as those with respiratory infection. In a study by Günther et al., procoagulant activity in bronchial lavage fluid from patients with pneumonia or acute respiratory distress syndrome was found to be increased compared with that from control individuals, with a correlation between the severity of respiratory failure and level of coagulant activity.

Severe sepsis, defined as sepsis associated with acute organ dysfunction, results from a generalized inflammatory and procoagulant host response to infection.  Once the endothelium becomes damaged, levels of endothelial thrombomodulin significantly decrease, and the body’s ability to convert Protein C to Activated Protein C diminishes. The ultimate cause of acute organ dysfunction in sepsis is injury to the vascular endothelium, which can result in microvascular coagulopathy.

(Vincent JL. Microvascular endothelial dysfunction: a renewed appreciation of sepsis pathophysiology.
Critical Care 2001; 5:S1–S5.

Endothelial Cell Dysfunction in Severe Sepsis

During the past decade a unifying hypothesis has been developed to explain the vascular changes that occur in septic shock on the basis of the effect of inflammatory mediators on the vascular endothelium. The vascular endothelium plays a central role in the control of microvascular flow, and it has been proposed that widespread vascular endothelial activation, dysfunction and eventually injury occurs in septic shock, ultimately resulting in multiorgan failure. This has been characterized in various models of experimental septic shock. Now, direct and indirect evidence for endothelial cell alteration in humans during septic shock is emerging.

The vascular endothelium regulates the flow of nutrient substances, diverse biologically active molecules and the blood cells themselves. This role of endothelium is achieved through the presence of membrane-bound receptors for numerous molecules, including proteins, lipid transporting particles, metabolites and hormones, as well as through specific junction proteins and receptors that govern cell–cell and cell–matrix interactions. Endothelial dysfunction and/or injury with subendothelium exposure facilitates leucocyte and platelet aggregation, and aggravation of coagulopathy. Therefore, endothelial dysfunction and/or injury should favour impaired perfusion, tissue hypoxia and subsequent organ dysfunction.

Anatomical damage to the endothelium during septic shock has been assessed in several studies. A single injection of bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has long been demonstrated to be a nonmechanical technique for removing endothelium. In endotoxic rabbits, observations tend to demonstrate that EC surface modification occurs easily and rapidly, with ECs being detached from the internal elastic lamina with an indication of subendothelial oedema.  Proinflammatory cytokines increase permeability of the ECs, and this is manifested approximately 6 hours after inflammation is triggered and becomes maximal over 12–24 hours as the combination of cytokines exert potentiating effects. Endothelial physical disruption allows inflammatory fluid and cells to shift from the blood into the interstitial space.

In sepsis

  • ECs become injured, prothrombotic and antifibrinolytic
  • They promote platelet adhesion
  • They promote leucocyte adhesion and inhibit vasodilation

An important point is that EC injury is sustained over time. In an endotoxic rabbit model, we demonstrated that endothelium denudation is present at the level of the abdominal aorta as early as after several hours following injury and persisted for at least 5 days afterward. After 21 days we observed that the endothelial surface had recovered. The de-endothelialized surface accounted for approximately 25% of the total surface.

Thrombomodulin and protein C activation at the microcirculatory level.

The endothelial cell surface thrombin (Th)-binding protein thrombomodulin (TM) is responsible for inhibition of thrombin activity. TM, when bound to Th, forms a potent protein C activator complex. Loss of TM and/or internalization results in Th–thrombin receptor (TR) interaction. Loss of TM and associated protein C activation represents the key event of decreased endothelial coagulation modulation ability and increased inflammation pathways.
( Iba T, Kidokoro A, Yagi Y: The role of the endothelium in changes in procoagulant activity in sepsis. J Am Coll Surg 1998; 187:321-329. Keywords: ATIII, antithrombin III; NF-κ, nuclear factor-κB; PAI,plasminogen activator inhibitor).

In order to test the role of the endothelial-derived relaxing factors NO and PGI2, we investigated, in dogs, the influence of a combination of NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (an inhibitor of NO synthesis) and indomethacin (an inhibitor of PGI2 synthesis). In these dogs treated with indomethacin plus NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester, the severity of the oxygen extraction defect was lower than that observed in the deoxycholate-treated dogs, suggesting that other mediators and/or mechanisms may be involved in microcirculatory control during hypoxia. One of these mediators or mechanisms could be related to hyperpolarization. Membrane potential is an important determinant of vascular smooth muscle tone through its influence on calcium influx via voltage-gated calcium channels. Hyperpolarization (as well as depolarization) has been shown to be a means of cell–cell communication in upstream vasodilatation and microcirculatory coordination. It is important to emphasize that intercell coupling exclusively involves ECs.

Interestingly, it was recently shown that sepsis, a situation that is characterized by impaired tissue perfusion and abnormal oxygen extraction, is associated with abnormal inter-EC coupling and reduction in the arteriolar conducted response.  An intra-organ defect in blood flow related to abnormal vascular reactivity, cell adhesion and coagulopathy may account for impaired organ oxygen regulation and function. If specific classes of microvessels must or must not be perfused to achieve efficient oxygen extraction during limitation in oxygen delivery, then impaired vascular reactivity and vessel injury might produce a pathological limitation in supply. In sepsis, the inflammatory response profoundly alters circulatory homeostasis, and this has been referred to as a ‘malignant intravascular inflammation’ that alters vasomotor tone and the distribution of blood flow among and within organs. These mechanisms might coexist with other types of sepsis associated cell dysfunction. For example, data suggest that endotoxin directly impairs oxygen uptake in ECs and indicate the importance of endothelium respiration in maintaining vascular homeostasis under conditions of sepsis.

Consistent with the hypothesis that alteration in endothelium plays a major in the pathophysiology of sepsis, it was observed that chronic ecNOS overexpression in the endothelium of mice resulted in resistance to LPS-induced hypotension, lung injury and death . This observation was confirmed by another group of investigators, who used transgenic mice overexpressing adrenomedullin  – a vasodilating peptide that acts at least in part via an NO-dependent pathway. They demonstrated resistance of these animals to LPS-induced shock, and lesser declines in blood pressure and less severe organ damage than occurred in the control animals. It might therefore be of importance to favour ecNOS expression and function during sepsis. The recent negative results obtained with therapeutic strategies aimed at blocking inducible NOS with the nonselective NOS inhibitor NG-monomethyl-L-arginine in human septic shock further confirm the overall importance of favoring vessel dilatation.

(Vallet B. Bench-to-bedside review: Endothelial cell dysfunction in severe sepsis: a role in organ dysfunction?  Critical Care 2003; 7(2):130-138 (DOI 10.1186/cc1864). (Print ISSN 1364-8535; Online ISSN 1466-609X).

Thrombosis in Inflammatory Bowel Disease

An association between IBD and thrombosis has been recognized for more than 60 years. Not only are patients with IBD more likely to have thromboembolic complications, but it has also been suggested that thrombosis might be pathogenic in IBD.

Coagulation Described.  See Part I. (Cascade)

Endothelial injury exposes TF, which forms a complex with factor VII.  This complex activates factors X and, to a lesser extent, IX. TFPI prevents this activation progressing  further; for coagulation to progress, factor Xa must be produced via factors IX and VIII. Thrombin, generated by the initial production of factor Xa, activates factor VIII and, through factor XI, factor IX, resulting in further activation of factor X. This positive feedback loop allows coagulation to proceed. Fibrin polymers are stabilized by factor XIIIa. Activated proteins CS (APCS) together inhibit factors VIIIa and Va, whereas antithrombin (AT) inhibits factors VIIa, IXa, Xa, and XIa. Fibrinolysis balances this system through the action of plasmin on fibrin. Plasminogen activator inhibitor controls the plasminogen activator-induced conversion of plasminogen to plasmin.

Inflammation and Thrombotic Processes Linked

Although interest has recently moved away from the proposal that ischemia is a primary cause of IBD, it has become increasingly clear that inflammatory and thrombotic processes are linked.  A vascular component to the pathogenesis of CD was first proposed only a year after Crohn et al. described the condition.  Subsequently, in 1989, a series of changes comprising vascular injury, focal arteritis, fibrin deposition, arterial occlusion, and then microinfarction or neovascularization was proposed as a possible pathogenetic sequence in CD.  In this study, resin casts of the intestinal vasculature showed changes ranging from intravascular fibrin deposition to complete thrombotic occlusion. Furthermore, the early vascular changes appeared to precede mucosal changes, suggesting that they were more likely to cause rather than result from the pathologic features of CD. Subsequent studies showed that intravascular fibrin deposition occurred at the site of granulomatous destruction of mesenteric blood vessels, and positive immunostaining for platelet glycoprotein IIIa occurred in fibrinoid plugs of mucosal capillaries in CD. In addition, intracapillary thrombus has been identified in biopsies from inflamed rectal mucosa from patients with CD. When combined with evidence of ongoing intravascular coagulation in both active and quiescent CD, the above data point toward a thrombotic element contributing to the pathogenesis of CD.

Not only are many different prothrombotic changes described in association with IBD, but they can also have multiple causes. Hyperhomocysteinemia, for example, is known to predispose to thrombosis, and patients with IBD are more likely to have hyperhomocysteinemia than control subjects. Hyperhomocysteinemia in IBD might be due to multiple possible causes, such as deficiencies of vitamin B12 as a result of terminal ileal disease or resection; B6, which is commonly reduced in IBD.  A vegan diet can’t be discarded either because of seriously deficient methyl donors (S-adenosyl methionine).

The realization that platelets are not only prothrombotic but also proinflammatory has stimulated interest in their role in both the pathogenesis and complications of IBD. The association between thrombocytosis and active IBD was first described more than 30 years ago. More recent observations link decreased or normal platelet survival to IBD-related thrombocytosis, possibly due to increased thrombopoiesis. This in turn could be driven by an interleukin-6 –induced increase in thrombopoietin synthesis in the liver. Spontaneous in vitro platelet aggregation occurs in platelets isolated from 30% of patients with IBD but not in platelets from control subjects. Moreover, collagen, arachidonic acid, ristocetin, and ADP-induced platelet activation are more marked in platelets from patients with active IBD than in those from healthy volunteers.

The roles of activated platelets and PLAs in mucosal inflammation. Activated platelets can interact with other cells involved in the inflammatory response either through direct contact or through the release of soluble mediators. Activated platelets interact directly with activated vascular endothelium, causing the latter to express adhesion molecules and release inflammatory and chemotactic cytokines.

Platelet activation might be pathogenic in IBD in several ways. Platelet activation might increase platelet aggregation, hence increasing the likelihood of thrombus formation at sites of vascular injury, for example, within the mesenteric circulation. P-selectin is the major ligand for leukocyte-endothelial interaction and is responsible for the rolling of platelets, leukocytes, and PLAs on vascular endothelium. Moreover, platelets adherent to injured vascular endothelium support leukocyte adhesion via P-selectin, an effect that could contribute to leukocyte emigration from the vasculature into the lamina propria in patients with IBD. In addition, P-selectin is the major platelet ligand for platelet-leukocyte interaction, which in turn causes both leukocyte activation and further platelet activation.

Platelet-Leukocyte Aggregation

Recently, studies showing that platelets and leukocytes that circulate together in aggregates (PLA) are more activated than those that circulate alone have generated interest in the role of PLA in various inflammatory and thrombotic conditions. PLA numbers are increased in patients with ischemic heart disease, systemic lupus erythematosus and rheumatoid arthritis, myeloproliferative disorders, and sepsis and are increased by smoking.

We have recently shown that patients with IBD have more PLAs than both healthy and inflammatory control subjects (patients with inflammatory arthritides).  As with platelet activation, there was no correlation with disease activity, suggesting that increased PLA formation might be an underlying abnormality. PLAs could contribute to the pathogenesis of IBD in a number of ways. As previously mentioned, TF is key to the initiation of thrombus formation. TF has recently been demonstrated on the surface of activated platelets and in platelet-derived microvesicles. Interaction between neutrophils and activated platelets or microvesicles vastly increases the activity of “intravascular” TF.


It is becoming increasingly apparent that thrombosis and inflammation are intrinsically linked. Hence the involvement of thrombotic processes in the pathogenesis of IBD, although perhaps not as the primary event, seems likely. Indeed, with the recently mounting evidence of the role of activated platelets and of their interaction with leukocytes in the pathogenesis of IBD, it seems even more probable that thrombosis plays some role in the pathogenic process.

(Irving PM, Pasi KJ, and Rampton DS. Thrombosis and Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology 2005;3:617–628. PII: 10.1053/S1542-3565(05)00154-0.)

Bleeding in Patients with Renal Insufficiency

Approximately 20–40% of critically ill patients will have renal insufficiency at the time of admission or will develop it during their ICU stay, depending on the definition of renal insufficiency and the case mix of the ICU. Such patients are also predisposed to bleeding because of uremic platelet dysfunction, typically multiple comorbidities, coagulopathies and frequent concomitant treatment with antiplatelet or anticoagulant agents.

The impairment in hemostasis in uremic patients is multifactorial and includes physiological defects in platelet hemostasis, an imbalance of mediators of normal endothelial function and frequent comorbidities such as vascular disease, anemia and the frequent need for medical interventions required to treat such comorbidities. Physiologic alterations in uremia include:

  • decreased platelet glycoprotein IIb–IIIa binding to both von Willebrand factor (vWf) and fibrinogen, causing an impairment in platelet aggregation;
  • increased prostacyclin and nitric oxide production, both potent inhibitors of platelet activation and vasoconstriction; and
  • decreased levels of platelet adenosine diphosphate (ADP) and serotonin, causing an impairment in platelet secretion.

In addition to other factors, small peptides containing the RGD (Arg-Gly-Asp) sequence of amino acids have been shown to be inhibitors of platelet aggregation that act by competing with vWf and fibrinogen for binding to the glycoprotein IIb–IIIa receptor.


ICU patients have dynamic risks of thrombosis and bleeding. Invasive procedures may require temporary interruption of anticoagulants. Consequently, approaches to thromboprophylaxis require daily reevaluation.

(Cook DJ, Douketis J, Arnold D, and Crowther MA. Bleeding and venous thromboembolism in the critically ill with emphasis on patients with renal insufficiency. Curr Opin Pulm Med 2009;15:455–462.)


I have covered a large amount of material on one of the most complex systems in medicine, and still not comprehensive, with a sufficient dash of repetition.  The task is to have some grasp of the cell-mediated imbalances inherent if coagulation and bleeding disorders.  The key points are:

  • inflammation and oxidative stress invariably lurk in the background
  • the Y-shaped model with an extrinsic, intrinsic, and common pathway has no basis in understanding
  • the current model is based on a cell-mediated concept of endothelial damage and platelet-endothelial interaction
  • the model has 3 components: Initiation, Amplification, Propagation
  • NO and prostacyclin have key roles in the process
  • The plasma proteins involved are in the serine-protease class of enzymes
  • The conversion of Protein C to APC has a central role as anti-coagulant

Part II  has explored organ system abnormalities that are all related to impairment of the Nitric Oxide balance and dual platelet-endothelial roles.

Nov 9, 2012 by anamikasarkar
Nitric Oxide (NO) is highly regulated in the blood such that it can be released as vasodilator when needed. The importance and pathway of Nitric Oxide has been nicely reviewed by. “Discovery of NO and its effects of vascular biology”. Other articles which are good readings for the importance of NO are  – a) regulation of glycolysis b) NO in cardiovascular disease c) NO and Immune responses Part I and Part II d) NO signaling pathways. The  effects of NO in diseased states have been reviewed by the articles – “Crucial role of Nitric Oxide in Cancer”, “Nitric Oxide and Sepsis, Hemodynamic Collapse, and the Search for Therapeutic Options”.. (Also, please see Source for more articles on NO and its significance).

Computational models are very efficient tools to understand complex reactions like NO towards physiological conditions. Among them wall shear stress is one of the major factors which is reviewed in the article – “Differential Distribution of Nitric Oxide – A 3-D Mathematical Model”.

Moreover, decrease in availability of NO can lead to many complications like pulmonary hypertension. Some of the causes of decrease in NO have been identified as clinical hypertension,right ventricular overload which can lead to cardiac heart failure,low levels of zinc and high levels of cardiac necrosis.

Sickle Cell disease patients, a hereditary disease, are also known to have decreased levels of NO which can become physiologically challenging. In USA alone, there are 90,000 people who are affected by Sickle cell disease.

Sickle cell disease is breakage of red blood cells (RBC) membrane and resulting release of the hemoglobin (Hb) into blood plasma. This process is also known as Hemolysis. Sickle cell disease is caused by single mutation of Hb which changes RBC from round shape to sickle or crescent shapes (Figure 1).

Figure 1 (A) shows normal red blood cells flowing freely through veins. The inset shows a cross section of a normal red blood cell with normal hemoglobin.
Figure 1 (B) shows abnormal, sickled red blood cells The inset image shows a cross-section of a sickle cell with long polymerized HbS strands stretching and distorting the cell shape.
Image Source:

RBCs generally breakdown and release Hbs in blood plasma after they reach their end of life span. Thus, in case of Sickle cell disease, there is more cell free Hb than normal. Furthermore, it is known that NO has a very high affinity towards Hbs, which is one of the ways free NO is regulated in blood. As a result presence of larger amounts of cell free Hb in Sickle cell disease lead to less availability of NO.

As to “a quantitative relationship between cell free Hb and depletion of NO”, Deonikar and Kavdia (J. Appl. Physiol., 2012) addressed this question by developing a model of a single idealized arteriole, with different layers of blood vessels diffusing nutrients to tissue layers (Figure 2:  Deonikar and Kavdia Figure 1).

The model and its parameters are explained in the previously published paper by same authors Deonikar and Kavdia, Annals of Biomed., 2010, who reported that the reaction rate between NO and RBC is 0.2 x 105, M-1 s-1 than 1.4 x 105, M-1 s-1 as previously reported by Butler, Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 1998. Their results show that even small increase in cell free Hb, 0.5uM, can decrease NO concentrations by 3-7 fold.  Their mathematical analysis shows that the increase in diffusion resistance of NO from vascular lumen to cell free zone has no effect on NO distribution and concentration with available levels of cell free Hb.

Deonikar and Kavdia’s  model, a simple representation shows that for SC disease patients, decrease in levels of bioavailable NO is attributed to cell free Hb, which is in abundant for these patients. Their results show that small increase by 0.5 uM in cell free Hb can cause a large decrease in NO concentrations.


Deonikar and Kavdia (2012):

Previous model explaining mathematical representation and parameters used in the model :Deonikar and Kavdia,Annals of Biomed., 2010.

Previous paper stating reaction rate of Hb and NO:, Biochim. Biophys. Acta, 1998.

Causes of decrease in NO

Clinical Hypertension :

Right ventricular overload :

Low levels of zinc and high levels of cardiac necrosis :

Sickle Cell Source:

NO Sources:

Differential Distribution of Nitric Oxide – A 3-D Mathematical Model:

Discovery of NO and its effects of vascular biology

Nitric oxide: role in Cardiovascular health and disease

NO signaling pathways

Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

The rationale and use of inhaled NO in Pulmonary Artery Hypertension and Right Sided Heart Failure

Clinical Trials Results for Endothelin System: Pathophysiological role in Chronic Heart Failure, Acute Coronary Syndromes and MI – Marker of Disease Severity or Genetic Determination?

Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease

Interaction of Nitric Oxide and Prostacyclin in Vascular Endothelium

Endothelial Dysfunction, Diminished Availability of cEPCs,  Increasing  CVD Risk – Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production


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Endothelial Function and Cardiovascular Disease

Pathologist and AuthorLarry H Bernstein, MD, FCAP 


This discussion is a continuation of a series on Nitric Oxide, vascular relaxation, vascular integrity, and systemic organ dysfunctions related to inflammatory and circulatory disorders. In some of these, the relationships are more clear than others, and in other cases the vascular disorders are aligned with serious metabolic disturbances. This article, in particular centers on the regulation of NO production, NO synthase, and elaborates more on the assymetrical dimethylarginine (ADMA) inhibition brought up in a previous comment, and cardiovascular disease, including:

Recall, though, that in SIRS leading to septic shock, that there is a difference between the pulmonary circulation, the systemic circulation and the portal circulation in these events. The comment calls attention to:
Böger RH. Asymmetric dimethylarginine, an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase, explains the ‘L-arginine paradox’ and acts as a novel cardiovascular risk factor. J Nutr 2004; 134: 2842S–7S.

This observer points out that ADMA inhibits vascular NO production at concentrations found in pathophysiological conditions (i.e., 3–15 μmol/l); ADMA also causes local vasoconstriction when it is infused intra-arterially. ADMA is increased in the plasma of humans with hypercholesterolemia, atherosclerosis, hypertension, chronic renal failure, and chronic heart failure.

Increased ADMA levels are associated with reduced NO synthesis as assessed by impaired endothelium-dependent vasodilation. We’ll go into that more with respect to therapeutic targets – including exercise, sauna, and possibly diet, as well as medical drugs.

It is remarkable how far we have come since the epic discovery of 17th century physician, William Harvey, by observing the action of the heart in small animals and fishes, proved that heart receives and expels blood during each cycle, and argued for the circulation in man. This was a huge lead into renaissance medicine. What would he think now?

Key Words: eNOS, NO, endothelin, ROS, oxidative stress, blood flow, vascular resistance, cardiovascular disease, chronic renal disease, hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, MI, exercise, nutrition, traditional chinese medicine, statistical modeling for targeted therapy.

Endothelial Function
The endothelium plays a crucial role in the maintenance of vascular tone and structure by means of eNOS, producing the endothelium-derived vasoactive mediator nitric oxide (NO), an endogenous messenger molecule formed in healthy vascular endothelium from the amino acid precursor L-arginine. Nitric oxide synthases (NOS) are the enzymes responsible for nitric oxide (NO) generation. The generation and actions of NO under physiological and pathophysiological conditions are exquisitely regulated and extend to almost every cell type and function within the circulation. While the molecule mediates many physiological functions, an excessive presence of NO is toxic to cells.

The enzyme NOS, constitutively or inductively, catalyses the production of NO in several biological systems. NO is derived not only from NOS isoforms but also from NOS-independent sources. In mammals, to date, three distinct NOS isoforms have been identified:

  1. neuronal NOS (nNOS),
  2. inducible NOS (iNOS), and
  3. endothelial NOS (eNOS).

The molecular structure, enzymology and pharmacology of these enzymes have been well defined, and reveal critical roles for the NOS system in a variety of important physiological processes. The role of NO and NOS in regulating vascular physiology, through neuro-hormonal, renal and other non-vascular pathways, as well as direct effects on arterial smooth muscle, appear to be more intricate than was originally thought.

Vallance et al. described the presence of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) as an endogenous inhibitor of eNOS in 1992. Since then, the role of this molecule in the regulation of eNOS has attracted increasing attention.
Endothelins are 21-amino acid peptides, which are active in almost all tissues in the body. They are potent vasoconstrictors, mediators of cardiac, renal, endocrine and immune functions and play a role in bronchoconstriction, neurotransmitter regulation, activation of inflammatory cells, cell proliferation and differentiation.

Endothelins were first characterised by Yanagisawa et al. (1988). The three known endothelins ET-1, -2 and -3 are structurally similar to sarafotoxins from snake venoms. ET-1 is the major isoform generated in blood vessels and appears to be the isoform of most importance in the cardiovascular system with a major role in the maintenance of vascular tone.

The systemic vascular response to hypoxia is vasodilation. However, reports suggest that the potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 (ET-1) is released from the vasculature during hypoxia. ET-1 is reported to augment superoxide anion generation and may counteract nitric oxide (NO) vasodilation. Moreover, ET-1 was proposed to contribute to increased vascular resistance in heart failure by increasing the production of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA).

A study investigated the role of ET-1, the NO pathway, the potassium channels and radical oxygen species in hypoxia-induced vasodilation of large coronary arteries and found NO contributes to hypoxic vasodilation, probably through K channel opening, which is reversed by addition of ET-1 and enhanced by endothelin receptor antagonism. These latter findings suggest that endothelin receptor activation counteracts hypoxic vasodilation.

Endothelial dysfunction
Patients with Raynaud’s Phemonenon had abnormal vasoconstrictor responses to cold pressor tests (CPT) that were similar in primary and secondary RP. There were no differences in median flow-mediated and nitroglycerin mediated dilation or CPT of the brachial artery in the 2 populations. Patients with secondary RP were characterized by abnormalities in microvascular responses to reactive hyperemia, with a reduction in area under the curve adjusted for baseline perfusion, but not in time to peak response or peak perfusion ratio.

Plasma ET-1, ADMA, VCAM-1, and MCP-1 levels were significantly elevated in secondary RP compared with primary RP. There was a significant negative correlation between ET-1 and ADMA values and measures of microvascular perfusion but not macrovascular endothelial function. Secondary RP is characterized by elevations in plasma ET-1 and ADMA levels that may contribute to alterations in cutaneous microvascular function.

ADMA inhibits vascular NO production within the concentration range found in patients with vascular disease. ADMA also causes local vasoconstriction when infused intra-arterially, and increases systemic vascular resistance and impairs renal function when infused systemically. Several recent studies have supplied evidence to support a pathophysiological role of ADMA in the pathogenesis of vascular dysfunction and cardiovascular disease. High ADMA levels were found to be associated with carotid artery intima-media-thickness in a study with 116 clinically healthy human subjects. Taking this observation further, another study performed with hemodialysis patients reported that ADMA prospectively predicted the progression of intimal thickening during one year of follow-up.

In a nested, case-control study involving 150 middle-aged, non-smoking men, high ADMA levels were associated with a 3.9-fold elevated risk for acute coronary events. Clinical and experimental evidence suggests elevation of ADMA can cause a relative L-arginine deficiency, even in the presence of “normal” L-arginine levels. As ADMA is a competitive inhibitor of eNOS, its inhibitory action can be overcome by increasing the concentration of the substrate, L-arginine. Elevated ADMA concentration is one possible explanation for endothelial dysfunction and decreased NO production in these diseases.
Metabolic Regulation of L-arginine and NO Synthesis 
Methylation of arginine residues within proteins or polypeptides occurs through N-methyltransferases, which utilize S-adenosylmethionine as a methyl donor. After proteolysis of these proteins or polypeptides, free ADMA is present in the cytoplasm. ADMA can also be detected in circulating blood plasma. ADMA acts as an inhibitor of eNOS by competing with the substrate of this enzyme, L-arginine. The ensuing reduction in nitric oxide synthesis causes vascular endothelial dysfunction and, subsequently, atherosclerosis. ADMA is eliminated from the body via urinary excretion and via metabolism by the enzyme DDAH to citrulline and dimethylamine.
Supplementation with L-arginine in animals with experimentally-induced vascular dysfunction atherosclerosis improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation. Moreover, L-arginine supplementation results in enhanced endothelium-dependent inhibition of platelet aggregation, inhibition of monocyte adhesion, and reduced vascular smooth muscle proliferation. One mechanism that explains the occurrence of endothelial dysfunction is the presence of elevated blood levels of asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) – an L-arginine analogue that inhibits NO formation and thereby can impair vascular function. Supplementation with L-arginine has been shown to restore vascular function and to improve the clinical symptoms of various diseases associated with vascular dysfunction.

Beneficial Effects of L-Arginine

  • Angina
  • Congestive Heart Failure
  • Hypertension
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Sickle Cell Disease and Pulmonary Hypertension

The ratio of L-arginine to ADMA is considered to be the most accurate measure of eNOS substrate availability. This ratio will increase during L-arginine supplementation, regardless of initial ADMA concentration. Due to the pharmacokinetics of oral L-arginine and the positive results from preliminary studies, it appears supplementation with a sustained-release L-arginine preparation will achieve positive therapeutic results at lower dosing levels.

Many prospective clinical trials have shown that the association between elevated ADMA levels and major cardiovascular events and total mortality is robust and extends to diverse patient populations. However, we need to define more clearly in the future who will profit from ADMA determination, in order to use this novel risk marker as a more specific diagnostic tool.
Elimination of ADMA by way of DDAH
Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and monomethyl arginine (L-NMMA) are endogenously produced amino acids that inhibit all three isoforms of nitric oxide synthase (NOS). ADMA accumulates in various disease states, including renal failure, diabetes and pulmonary hypertension, and its concentration in plasma is strongly predictive of premature cardiovascular disease and death. Both LNMMA and ADMA are eliminated largely through active metabolism by dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase (DDAH) and thus DDAH dysfunction may be a crucial unifying feature of increased cardiovascular risk. These investigators ask whether ADMA is the underlying issue related to the pathogenesis of the vascular disorder.
They identified the structure of human DDAH-1 and probed the function of DDAH-1 both by deleting the Ddah1 gene in mice and by using DDAH-specific inhibitors that is shown by crystallography, bind to the active site of human DDAH-1. The loss of DDAH-1 activity leads to accumulation of ADMA and reduction in NO signaling. This in turn causes vascular pathophysiology, including endothelial dysfunction, increased systemic vascular resistance and elevated systemic and pulmonary blood pressure. The results suggest that DDAH inhibition could be harnessed therapeutically to reduce the vascular collapse associated with sepsis.
Methylarginines are formed when arginine residues in proteins are methylated by the action of protein arginine methyltransferases (PRMTs), and free methylarginines are liberated following proteolysis. Clear demonstration of an effect of endogenous ADMA and L-NMMA on cardiovascular physiology would be of importance, not only because of the implications for disease, but also because it would expose a link between post-translational modification of proteins and signaling through a proteolytic product of these modified proteins.
Which is it? ADMA or DDHA: Intrusion of a Genetic alteration.
The study showed that loss of DDAH expression or activity causes endothelial dysfunction, we believe that DDAH inhibition could potentially be used therapeutically to limit excessive NO production, which can have pathological effects. They then showed treated cultured isolated blood vessels with lipopolysaccharide (LPS) induced expression of the inducible isoform of NO synthase (iNOS) and generated high levels of NO, which were blocked by the iNOS-selective inhibitor 1400W and by DDAH inhibitors. Treatment of isolated blood vessels with DDAH inhibitors significantly increased ADMA accumulation in the culture medium. Treatment of isolated blood vessels with bacterial LPS led to the expected hyporeactivity to the contractile effects of phenylephrine, which was reversed by treatment with a DDAH inhibitor. The effect of the DDAH inhibitor was large and stereospecific, and was reversed by the addition of L-arginine.
In conclusion, genetic and chemical-biology approaches provide compelling evidence that loss of DDAH-1 function results in increased ADMA concentrations and thereby disrupts vascular NO signaling. A broader implication of this study is that post-translational methylation of arginine residues in proteins may have downstream effects by affecting NO signaling upon hydrolysis and release of the free methylated amino acid. This signaling pathway seems to have been highly conserved through evolution.

The crucial role of nitric oxide (NO) for normal endothelial function is well known. In many conditions associated with increased risk of cardiovascular diseases such as hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, abdominal obesity, diabetes and smoking, NO biosynthesis is dysregulated, leading to endothelial dysfunction. The growing evidence from animal and human studies indicates that endogenous inhibitors of endothelial NO synthase such as asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) and NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) are associated with the endothelial dysfunction and potentially regulate NO synthase.

Nitric Oxide Synthase

Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) is one of three known endogenously produced circulating methylarginines (i.e. ADMA, NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) and symmetrically methylated NG, NG-dimethyl-L-arginine). ADMA is formed by the action of protein arginine methyltransferases that methylate arginine residues in proteins and after which free ADMA is released. ADMA and L-NMMA can competitively inhibit NO elaboration by displacing L-arginine from NO synthase (NOS). The amount of methylarginines is related to overall metabolic activity and the protein turnover rate of cells. Although methylarginines are excreted partly by the kidneys, the major route of elimination of ADMA in humans is metabolism by the dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase enzymes[ dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolase-1 and -2 (DDAH)] enzymes. Inhibition of DDAH leads to the accumulation of ADMA and consequently to inhibition of NO-mediated endothelium dependent relaxation of blood vessels.
The potential role of ADMA in angina pectoris has been evaluated by Piatti and co-workers, who reported ADMA levels to be higher in patients with cardiac syndrome X (angina pectoris with normal coronary arteriograms) than in controls. According to preliminary results from the CARDIAC (Coronary Artery Risk Determination investigating the influence of ADMA Concentration) study, patients with coronary heart disease (n 816) had a higher median ADMA plasma concentration than age and sex matched controls (median 0.91 vs. 0.70 mol/l; p 0.0001). Further, in a prospective Chinese study, a high plasma ADMA level independently predicted subsequent cardiovascular adverse events (cardiovascular death, myocardial infarction, and repeated revascularization of a target vessel).

Protein detoxification pathway.

Protein detoxification pathway. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are only few published findings concerning variations in human DDAH. However, polymorphisms in other genes potentially related to risk factors for endothelial dysfunction and cardiovascular events have been studied. Reduced NO synthesis has been implicated in the development of atherosclerosis. For example, there are some functionally important variants of the NOS that could affect individual vulnerability to atherosclerosis by changing the amount of NO generated by the endothelium.
There are probably several functional variations in genes coding DDAH enzymes in different populations. Some of them could confer protection against the harmful effects of elevated ADMA and others impair enzyme function causing accumulation of ADMA in cytosol and/or blood.
In a study of 16 men with either low or high plasma ADMA concentrations were screened to identify DDAH polymorphisms that could potentially be associated with increased susceptibility to cardiovascular diseases. In that study a novel functional mutation of DDAH-1 was identified; the mutation carriers had a significantly elevated risk for cardiovascular disease and a tendency to develop hypertension. These results confirmed the clinical role of DDAH enzymes in ADMA metabolism. Furthermore, it is possible that more common variants of DDAH genes contribute more widely to increased cardiovascular risk.
We found a rare variation in the DDAH-1 gene, which is associated with elevated plasma concentrations of ADMA in heterozygous mutation carriers. There was also an increased prevalence of CHD and a tendency to hypertension among individuals with this DDAH-1 mutation. These observations highlight the importance of ADMA as a possible risk factor and emphasize the essential role of DDAH in regulating ADMA levels.

ADMA Elevation and Coronary Artery Disease
Endothelial dysfunction may be considered as a systemic disorder and involves different vascular beds. Coronary endothelial dysfunction (CED) precedes the development of coronary. Endothelial dysfunction is characterized by a reduction in endogenous nitric oxide (NO) activity, which may be accompanied by elevated plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) levels. ADMA is a novel endogenous competitive inhibitor of NO synthase (NOS), an independent marker for cardiovascular risk.

English: Structure of asymmetric dimethylargin...

English: Structure of asymmetric dimethylarginine; ADMA; N,N-Dimethylarginine Deutsch: Asymmetrisches Dimethylarginin; N,N-Dimethyl-L-arginin; Guanidin-N,N-dimethylarginin (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In a small study fifty-six men without obstructive coronary artery disease (CAD) who underwent coronary endothelial function testing were studied. Men with CED had significant impairment of erectile function (P ¼ 0.008) and significantly higher ADMA levels (0.50+0.06 vs. 0.45+0.07 ng/mL, P ¼ 0.017) compared with men with normal endothelial function. Erectile function positively correlated with coronary endothelial function. This correlation was independent of age, body mass index, high-density lipoprotein, C-reactive protein, homeostasis model assessment of insulin resistance index, and smoking status, suggesting that CED is independently associated with ED and plasma ADMA concentration in men with early coronary atherosclerosis.

ADMA and Chronic Renal Failure in Hepatorenal Syndrome
The concentration of SDMA was significantly higher in the patients with HRS compared to the patients without HRS and it was also higher than the values obtained from the healthy participants (1.76 ± 0.3 μmol/L; 1.01 ± 0.32 and 0.520 ± 0.18 μmol/L, respectively; p < 0.01). The concentrations of ADMA were higher in the cirrhotic patients with HRS than in those without this serious complication of cirrhosis. The concentration of ADMA in all the examined cirrhotic patients was higher than those obtained from healthy volunteers (1.35 ± 0.27 μmol/L, 1.05 ± 0.35 μmol/L and 0.76 ± 0.21 μmol/L, respectively). In the patients with terminal alcoholic liver cirrhosis, the concentrations
of ADMA and SDMA correlated with the progress of cirrhosis as well as with the development of cirrhosis complications. In the patients with HRS there was a positive correlation between creatinine and SDMA in plasma (r2 = 0.0756, p < 0.001) which was not found between creatinine and ADMA. The results demonstrate that the increase in SDMA concentration is proportionate to the progression of chronic damage of the liver and kidneys. Increased ADMA concentration can be a causative agent of renal insufficiency in patients with cirrhosis.

In patients with cirrhosis, ADMA, as well as SDMA could be markers for kidney insufficiency development. Accumulation of ADMA in plasma causes kidney
vasoconstriction and thereby retention of SDMA. Considering that ADMA has several damaging effects, it can be concluded that modulation of the activity of enzyme which participates in ADMA catabolism may represent a new therapeutic goal which is intended to reduce the progress of liver and kidney damage and thus the development of HRS.

ADMA Therapeutic Targets
Elevated plasma concentrations of the endogenous nitric oxide synthase
inhibitor asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) are found in various clinical settings, including

  • renal failure,
  • coronary heart disease,
  • hypertension,
  • diabetes and
  • preeclampsia.

In healthy people acute infusion of ADMA promotes vascular dysfunction,
and in mice chronic infusion of ADMA promotes progression of atherosclerosis.
Thus, ADMA may not only be a marker but also an active player in cardiovascular disease, which makes it a potential target for therapeutic interventions.

This review provides a summary and critical discussion of the presently available data concerning the effects on plasma ADMA levels of cardiovascular drugs, hypoglycemic agents, hormone replacement therapy, antioxidants, and vitamin supplementation.
We assess the evidence that the beneficial effects of drug therapies on vascular function can be attributed to modification of ADMA levels. To develop more specific ADMA-lowering therapies, mechanisms leading to elevation of plasma ADMA concentrations in cardiovascular disease need to be better understood.

ADMA is formed endogenously by degradation of proteins containing arginine residues that have been methylated by S-adenosylmethionine-dependent methyltransferases (PRMTs). There are two major routes of elimination: renal excretion and enzymatic degradation by the dimethylarginine dimethylaminohydrolases (DDAH-1 and -2).

Oxidative stress causing upregulation of PRMT expression and/or attenuation of DDAH activity has been suggested as a mechanism and possible drug target in clinical conditions associated with elevation of ADMA. As impairment of DDAH activity or capacity is associated with substantial increases in plasma ADMA concentrations, DDAH is likely to emerge as a prime target for specific therapeutic interventions.

Cardiovascular diseases (CVD) in diabetic patients have endothelial dysfunction as a key pathogenetic event. Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), an endogenous inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), plays a pivotal role in endothelial dysfunction. Different natural polyphenols have been shown to preserve endothelial function and prevent CVD. Another study assessed the effect of silibinin, a widely used flavonolignan from milk thistle, on ADMA levels and endothelial dysfunction in db/db mice.

Plasma and aorta ADMA levels were higher in db/db than in control lean mice. Silibinin administration markedly decreased plasma ADMA; consistently, aorta ADMA was reduced in silibinin-treated animals. Plasma and aorta ADMA levels exhibited a positive correlation, whereas liver ADMA was inversely correlated with both plasma and aorta ADMA concentrations. Endothelium-(NO)-dependent vasodilatation to ACh was impaired in db/db mice and was restored in the silibinin group, in accordance with the observed reduction of plasma and vascular levels of ADMA. Endothelium-independent vasodilatation to SNP was not modified by silibinin administration.

Endothelin Inhibitors
Endothelins are potent vasoconstrictors and pressor peptides and are important mediators of cardiac, renal andendocrine functions. Increased ET-1 levels in disease states such as congestive heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, acute myocardial infarction, and renal failure suggest the endothelin system as an attractive target for pharmacotherapy. A non-peptidic, selective, competitive endothelin receptor antagonist with an affinity for the ETA receptor in the subnanomolar range was administered by continuous intravenous infusion to beagle dogs, rats, and Goettingen minipigs. It caused mild arteriopathy characterised by segmental degeneration in the media of mid- to large-size coronary arteries in the heart of dog, but not rat or minipig.

The lesions only occurred in the atrium and ventricle. Frequency and severity of the vascular lesions was not sex or dose related. No effects were noted in blood vessels in other organs or tissue. Plasma concentrations at steady state, and overall exposure in terms of AUC(0–24h) were higher in minipig and rat than the dog but did not cause cardiac arteriopathy. These findings concur with those caused by other endothelin anatagonists, vasodilators and positive inotropic: vasodilating drugs such as potassium channel openers, phosphodiesterase inhibitors and peripheral vasodilators.

Results by echocardiography indicate treatment-related local vasodilatation in the coronary arteries. These data suggest that the coronary arteriopathy may be the result of exaggerated pharmacology. Sustained vasodilatation in the coronary vascular bed may alter flow dynamics and lead to increased shear stress and tension on the coronary wall with subsequent microscopic trauma. In our experience with a number of endothelin receptor antagonists, the cardiac arteriopathy was only noted in studies with multiple daily or continuous intravenous infusion inviting speculation that sustained high plasma levels are needed for development of the lesions.

Up-regulation of vascular endothelin type B (ETB) receptors is implicated in the
pathogenesis of cardiovascular disease. Culture of intact arteries has been shown to induce similar receptor alterations and has therefore been suggested as a suitable method for, ex vivo, in detail delineation of the regulation of endothelin receptors. We hypothesize that mitogen-activated kinases (MAPK) and protein kinase C (PKC) are involved in the regulation of endothelin ETB receptors in human internal mammary arteries.

The endothelin-1-induced contraction (after endothelin ETB receptor desensitization) and the endothelin ETA receptor mRNA expression levels were not altered by culture. The sarafotoxin 6c contraction, endothelin ETB receptor protein and mRNA expression levels were increased. This increase was antagonized by;

PKC inhibitors (10 μM bisindolylmaleimide I and 10 μM Ro-32-0432), and
inhibitors of the p38, extracellular signal related kinases 1 and 2 (ERK1/2) and C-jun terminal kinase (JNK) MAPK pathways
Endothelin Receptor Antagonist Tezosentan
The effects of changes in the mean (Sm) and pulsatile (Sp) components of arterial wall shear stress on arterial dilatation of the iliac artery of the anaesthetized dog were examined in the absence and presence of the endothelin receptor antagonist tezosentan (10 mg kg_1 I.V.; Ro 61-0612; [5-isopropylpyridine-2-sulphonic acid 6-(2-hydroxy-ethoxy)-5-(2-methoxy-phenoxy)-2-(2-1H-tetrazol-5-ylpyridin-4-yl)-pyrimidin-4-ylamide]).

Changes in shear stress were brought about by varying local peripheral resistance and stroke volume using a distal infusion of acetylcholine and stimulation of the left ansa subclavia. An increase in Sm from 1.81 ± 0.3 to 7.29 ± 0.7 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.) before tezosentan caused an endothelium-dependent arterial dilatation which was unaffected by administration of tezosentan for a similar increase in Sm from 1.34 ± 0.6 to 5.76 ± 1.4 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.).

In contrast, increasing the Sp from 7.1 ± 0.8 to a maximum of 11.5 ± 1.1 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.) before tezosentan reduced arterial diameter significantly. Importantly, after administration of tezosentan subsequent increases in Sp caused arterial dilatation for the same increase in Sp achieved prior to tezosentan, increasing from a baseline of 4.23 ± 0.4 to a maximum of 9.03 ± 0.9 N m_2 (means ± S.E.M.; P < 0.001). The results of this study provide the first in vivo evidence that pulsatile shear stress is a stimulus for the release of endothelin from the vascular endothelium.

Exercise and Diet
Vascular endotheliumis affected by plasma asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA), and it is induced by inflammatory cytokines of tumour necrosis factor (TNF)-a in vitro. Would a tight glycemic control restore endothelial function in patients with type-2 diabetes mellitus (DM) with modulation of TNF-a and/or reduction of ADMA level? In 24 patients with type-2 DM, the flow-mediated, endothelium-dependent dilation (FMD: %) of brachial arteries during reactive hyperaemia was determined by a high-resolution ultrasound method. Blood samples for glucose, cholesterol, TNF-a, and ADMA analyses were also collected from these patients after fasting. No significant glycemic or FMD changes were observed in 10 patients receiving the conventional therapy.

In 14 patients who were hospitalized and intensively treated, there was a significant decrease in glucose level after the treatment [from 190+55 to 117+21 (mean+SD) mg/dL, P , 0.01]. After the intensive control of glucose level, FMD increased significantly (from 2.5+0.9 to 7.2+3.0%), accompanied by a significant (P , 0.01) decrease in TNF-a (from 29+16 to 11+9 pg/dL) and ADMA (from 4.8+1.5 to 3.5+1.1 mM/L) levels. The changes in FMD after treatment correlated inversely with those in TNF-a (R ¼ 20.711, P , 0.01) and ADMA (R ¼ 20.717, P , 0.01) levels.
The exaggerated blood pressure response to exercise (EBPR) is an independent predictor of hypertension. Asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) is an endogenous nitric oxide inhibitor and higher plasma levels of ADMA are related to increased cardiovascular risk. The aim of this study is to identify the relationship between ADMA and EBPR.

A total of 66 patients (36 with EBPR and 30 as controls) were enrolled in the study. EBPR is defined as blood pressure (BP) measurements ≥200/100 mmHg during the treadmill test. All the subjects underwent 24-h ambulatory BP monitoring. L-arginine and ADMA levels were measured using a high performance lipid chromatography technique.

The serum ADMA levels were increased in the EBPR group compared to the healthy controls (4.0±1.4 vs 2.6±1.1 μmol/L respectively, P=0.001), but L-arginine levels were similar in the 2 groups (P=0.19). The serum ADMA levels were detected as an independent predictor of EBPR (odds ratio 2.28; 95% confidence interval 1.22–4.24; P=0.002). Serum ADMA levels might play a role in EBPR to exercise.

Endothelial dysfunction occurs early in atherosclerosis in response to cardiovascular risk factors. The occurrence of endothelial dysfunction is primarily the result of reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioavailabilty. It represents an independent predictor of cardiovascular events and predicts the prognosis of the patient. Therefore, endothelial function has been identified as a target for therapeutic intervention. Regular exercise training is a nonpharmacological option to improve endothelial dysfunction in patients with cardiovascular disease by increasing NO bioavailability.

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a cause of significant morbidity and mortality in the Western world. risk factor modification and endovascular and surgical revascularisation are the main treatment options at present. However, a significant number of patients still require major amputation. There is evidence that nitric oxide (NO) and its endogenous inhibitor asymmetric dimethylarginine (ADMA) play significant roles in the pathophysiology of PAD.

This paper reviews experimental work implicating the ADMA-DDAH-NO pathway in PAD, focusing on both the vascular dysfunction and both the vascular dysfunction and effects within the ischaemic muscle, and examines the potential of manipulating this pathway as a novel adjunct therapy in PAD.

In patients with CHF, the peripheral vascular resistance is increased via activation of the neurohormonal system, namely by autonomous sympathetic nervous system, rennin -angiotensin- aldosterone system (RAAS), and endothelin system. The vascular endothelial function in patients with CHF, mainly represented by the endothelium-dependent vasodilation, is altered.

Such alteration leads to increased vascular tone and remodeling of the blood vessels, reducing the peripheral blood flow. Hence, the amount of oxygen for the skeletal muscles is compromised, with progressive exercise intolerance. The vascular endothelial dysfunction in the CHF is mainly due to the decrease of the nitric oxide production induced by the reduced gene expression of eNOS and increased oxidative stress.

The endothelium-dependent vasodilation alteration has been virtually reported in all cardiovascular diseases. Using sauna bath as therapeutic option for CHF is not very recent, since in the 1950’s the first studies with CHF patients were conducted and the potential beneficial effect of sauna was suggested. However, some time later the studies emphasized especially its risks and recommended caution in its use for cardiac patients.

Frequently, sports medicine physicians are invited to evaluate the impact of the sauna on diseases and on health in general. Sauna can be beneficial or dangerous depending on its use. In the past few years the sauna is considered beneficial for the cardiovascular diseases’ patients, as the heart failure and lifestyle-related diseases, mainly by improving the peripheral endothelial function through the increase in cardiac output and peripheral vasodilation.

It is widely known that the vasodilators, such as angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors, improve the CHF and increase the peripheral perfusion. Since the endothelial function is altered in CHF, the endothelium is considered as a new therapeutic target in heart failure. Hence, the angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and physical training improve the endothelial function in CHF patients. One of the proposed mechanisms for the alteration of the endothelium-dependent vasodilation would be through the decrease of the NO production in the peripheral vessels in CHF patients. The decrease of peripheral perfusion would decrease the shear stress. The shear stress is an important stimulus for NO production and eNOS expression. On the other hand, the heat increases the cardiac output and improves the peripheral perfusion in CHF patients. Consequently, with the cardiac output improvement in CHF patients, an increase of the shear stress, NO production and eNOS expression are expected.

Sauna bath
The sauna bath represents a heat load of 300-600 W/m2 of body surface area. The skin temperature rapidly increases to ± 40o-41oC and the thermoregulatory mechanisms are triggered. Evaporative heat transfer by sweating is the only effective body heat loss channel in dry sauna. The sweating begins rapidly and reaches its maximum level in ± 15 min. The total sweat secretion represents a heat loss of about 200 W/m2 of the body surface area. The body cannot compensate for the heat load and causing elevation of internal temperature. The skin circulation increases substantially. The skin blood flow, in the thermo-neutral condition (± 20oC) and in rest corresponding to ± 5-10% of the cardiac output, can reach ± 50-70% of the cardiac output.

Thermal therapy in 60oC produced systemic arterial, pulmonary arterial and venous vasodilation, reduced the preload and afterload and improved the cardiac output and the peripheral perfusion, clinical symptoms, life quality, and cardiac arrhythmias in CHF patients. In infants with severe CHF secondary to ventricular septal defect, the sauna therapy decreased the systemic vascular resistance and increased the cardiac output. The sauna benefits in CHF patients are possibly caused by the improvement of the vascular endothelial function and normalization of the neurohormonal system .

Ikeda et al. discovered that the observed improvements in the sauna therapy are due to the eNOS expression increase in the arterial endothelium. They later showed that the thermal therapy with sauna improves the survival of the TO-2 cardiomyopathic hamsters with CHF and, more recently, showed that the repetitive therapy with sauna increases the eNOS expression and the nitric oxide production in artery endothelium of TO-2 cardiomyopathic hamsters with CHF.
Whether n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) supplementation and/or diet intervention might have beneficial influence on endothelial function was assessed using plasma levels of ADMA and L-arginine. A male population (n = 563, age 70 ± 6 yrs) with long-standing hyperlipidemia, characterized as high risk individuals in 1970–72, was included, randomly allocated to receive placebo n-3 PUFA capsules (corn oil) and no dietary advice (control group), dietary advice (Mediterranean type), n-3 PUFA capsules, or dietary advice and n-3 PUFA combined and followed for 3 years. Fasting blood samples were drawn at baseline and the end of the study.

Compliance with both intervention regimens were demonstrated by changes in serum fatty acids and by recordings from a food frequency questionnaire. No influence of either regimens on ADMA levels were obtained. However, n-3 PUFA supplementation was accompanied by a significant increase in L-arginine levels, different from the decrease observed in the placebo group (p < 0.05). In individuals with low body mass index (<26 kg/m2), the decrease in L-arginine on placebo was strengthened (p = 0.01), and the L-arginine/ADMA ratio was also significantly reduced (p = 0.04). In this rather large randomized intervention study, ADMA levels were not influenced by n-3 PUFA supplementation or dietary counselling. n-3 PUFA did, however, counteract the age related reduction in L-arginine seen on placebo, especially in lean individuals, which might be considered as an improvement of endothelial function.

Traditional Chinese Medicine

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) involves a broad range of empirical testing and refinement and plays an important role in the health maintenance for people all over the world. However, due to the complexity of Chinese herbs, a full understanding of TCM’s action mechanisms is still unavailable despite plenty of successful applications of TCM in the treatment of various diseases, including especially cardiovascular diseases (CVD), one of the leading causes of death.

An integrated system of TCM has been constructed to uncover the underlying action mechanisms of TCM by incorporating the chemical predictors, target predictors and network construction approaches from three representative Chinese herbs, i.e., Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort., Dalbergia odorifera T. Chen and Corydalis yanhusuo WT Wang widely used in CVD treatment, by combined use of drug absorption, distribution, metabolism and excretion (ADME) screening and network pharmacology techniques. These studies have generated 64 bioactive ingredients and identified 54 protein targets closely associated with CVD, to clarify some of the common conceptions in TCM, and provide clues to modernize such specific herbal medicines.

Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort., Dalbergia odorifera T. Chen and Corydalis yanhusuo WT Wang
Twenty-two of 194 ingredients in Ligusticum chuanxiong demonstrate good bioavailability (60%) after oral administration. Interestingly, as the most abundant bioactive compound of Chuanxiong, Ligustilide (M120) only has an adequate OB of 50.10%, although it significantly inhibits the vasoconstrictions induced by norepinephrine bitartrate (NE) and calcium chloride (CaCl2). Indeed, this compound can be metabolized to butylidenephthalide, senkyunolide I (M156), and senkyunolide H (M155) in vivo.

The three natural ingredients produce various pharmacological activities in cerebral blood vessels, the general circulatory system and immune system including spasmolysis contraction effects, inhibitory effects of platelet aggregation and anti-proliferative activity, and thus improve the therapeutic effect on patients. Cnidilide (M93, OB = 77.55%) and spathulenol (M169, OB = 82.37%) also closely correlate with the smooth muscle relaxant action, and thereby have the strongest spasmolytic activity. Carotol (M8) and Ferulic acid (M105) with an OB of 149.03% and 86.56%, respectively, demonstrate better bioavailability compared with cnidilide and spathulenol, which show strong antifungal, antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.

The pharmacological activity of ferulic acid results in the improvement of blood fluidity and the inhibition of platelet aggregation, which may offer beneficial effects against cancer, CVD, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease. As for 3-n-butylphthalide (M85, OB = 71.28%), this compound is not only able to inhibit platelet aggregation, but also decreases the brain infarct volume and enhances microcirculation, thus benefiting patients with ischemic stroke. Platelet aggregation represents a multistep adhesion process involving distinct receptors and adhesive ligands, with the contribution of individual receptor-ligand interactions to the aggregation process depending on the prevailing blood flow conditions, implying that the rheological (blood flow) conditions are an important impact factor for platelet aggregation. Moreover, thrombosis, the pathological formation of platelet aggregates and one of the biggest risk factors for CVD, occludes blood flow causing stroke and heart attack. This explains why the traditional Chinese herb Ligusticum chuanxiong that inhibits platelet aggregates forming and promotes blood circulation can be used in treatment of CVD.

Twenty-six percent (24 of 93) of the ingredients in Dalbergia odorifera meet the OB > 60% criterion irrespective of the pharmacological activity. Relatively high bioavailability values were predicted for the mainly basic compounds odoriflavene (M275, OB = 84.49%), dalbergin (M247, OB = 78.57%), sativanone (M281, OB = 73.01%), liquiritigenin (M262, OB = 67.19%), isoliquiritigenin (M259, OB = 61.38%) and butein (M241, OB = 78.38%). Interestingly, all of the six ingredients show obvious anti-inflammatory property. Butein, liquiritigenin and isoliquiritigenin inhibit cell inflammatory responses by suppressing the NF-κB activation induced by various inflammatory agents and carcinogens, and by decreasing the NF-κB reporter activity. Inflammation occurs with CVD, and Dalbergia odorifera, one of the most potent anti-cardiovascular and anti-cerebrovascular agents, exerts great anti-inflammatory activity.

Corydalis yanhusuo has gained ever-increasing popularity in today’s world because of its therapeutic effects for the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia disease, gastric and duodenal ulcer and menorrhalgia. In our work, 21% (15 of 73) of chemicals in this Chinese herb display good OB (60% or even high), and the four main effective ingredients are natural alkaloid agents.

Dehydrocorydaline blocks the release of noradrenaline from the adrenergic nerve terminals in both the Taenia caecum and pulmonary artery, and thereby inhibits the relaxation or contraction of adrenergic neurons. As for dehydrocavidine with an OB of 47.59%, this alkaloid exhibits a significant spasmolytic effect, which acts via relaxing smooth muscle.

In recent years, CVD has been at the top list of the most serious health problems. Many different types of therapeutic targets have already been identified for the management and prevention of CVD, such as endothelin and others. The key question asked is

  • what the interactions of the active ingredients of the Chinese herbs are with their protein targets in a systematic manner and
  • how do the corresponding targets change under differential perturbation of the chemicals?

The study used an unbiased approach to probe the proteins that bind to the small molecules of interest in CVD on the basis of the Random Forest (RF) and Support Vector Machine (SVM) methods combining the chemical, genomic and pharmacological information for drug targeting and discovery on a large scale. Applied to 64 ingredients derived from the three traditional Chinese medicines Dalbergia odorifera, Ligusticum chuanxiong and Corydalis yanhusuo, which show good OB, 261 ligand-target interactions have been constructed, 221 of which are enzymes, receptors, and ion channels. This indicates that chemicals with multiple relative targets are responsible for the high interconnectedness of the ligand-target interactions. The promiscuity of drugs has restrained the advance in recent TCM, because they were thought to be undesirable in favor of more target-specific drugs.

Target Identification and Validation
To validate the reliability of these target proteins, the researchers performed a docking analysis to select the ligand-protein interactions with a binding free energies of ≤−5.0 kcal/mol, which leads to the sharp reduction of the interaction number from 5982 to 760. These drug target candidates were subsequently subject to PharmGkb (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011), a comprehensive disease-target database, to investigate whether they were related to CVD or not, and finally, 54 proteins were collected and retained.

Fourty-two proteins (76%) were identified as the targets of Ligusticum chuanxiong, such as dihydrofolate reductase (P150), an androgen receptor (P210) and angiotensin-converting enzyme (P209) that were involved in the development of CVD. Of the proteins, seven and two were recognized as those of Dalbergia odorifera and Corydalis yanhusuo, respectively. For Dalbergia odorifera, this Chinese herb has 48 potential protein targets, 13 of which have at least one link to other drugs.

The three herbs share 29 common targets, accounting for 52.7% of the total number. Indeed, as one of the most important doctrines of TCM
abstracted from direct experience and perception, “multiple herbal drugs for one disease” has played an undeniable role. These studies explored the targets of the three Chinese herbs, indicating that these drugs target the same targets simultaneously and exhibit similar pharmacological effects on CVD. This is consistent with the theory of “multiple herbal drugs for one disease”.

The three Chinese herbs possess specific targets. The therapeutic efficacy of a TCM depends on multiple components, targets and pathways. The complexity becomes a huge obstacle for the development and innovation of TCM. For example, the Chinese herb Ligusticum chuanxiong identifies the protein caspase-3 (P184), a cysteinyl aspartate-specific protease, as one of its specific targets, and exhibits inhibitory effects on the activity of this protease. In fact, connective tissue growth factor enables the activation of caspase-3 to induce apoptosis in human aortic vascular smooth muscle cells.

Thus, modulation of the activity of caspase-3 with Ligusticum chuanxiong suggests an efficient therapeutic approach to CVD. The Chinese herb Dalbergia odorifera has the α-2A adrenergic receptor (P216) as its specific target and probably blocks the release of this receptor, and thus influences its action. As for Corydalisyanhusuo, the protein tyrosine-protein kinase JAK2 (P9) is the only specific target of this Chinese herb. The results indicate different specific targets possessed by the three Chinese herbs.

Ligand-Candidate Target and Ligand-Potential Target Networks
Previous studies have already reported the relationships of the small molecules with CVD, which indicates the reliability of our results [45,46]. Regarding the candidate targets, we have found that prostaglandin G/H synthase 2 (P46) and prostaglandin G/H synthase 1 (P47) possess the largest number of connected ingredients. Following are nitric-oxide synthase, endothelial (P66) and tyrosine-protein phosphatase non-receptor type 1 (P8), which have 62 and 61 linked chemicals, respectively.
The 29 targets shared by the three traditional Chinese herbs exhibit a high degree of correlations with CVD, which further verifies their effectiveness for the treatment of CVD. These results provide a clear view of the relationships of the target proteins with CVD and other related diseases, which actually link the Chinese herbs and the diseases via the protein targets. This result further explains the theory of “multiple herbal drugs for one disease” based on molecular pharmacology.

Target-Pathway Network
Cells communicate with each other using a “language” of chemical signals. The cell grows, divides,or dies according to the signals it receives. Signals are generally transferred from the outside of the cell. Specialized proteins are used to pass the signal—a process known as signal transduction. Cells have a number of overlapping pathways to transmit signals to multiple targets. Ligand binding in many of the signaling proteins in the pathway can change the cellular communication and finally affect cell growth and proliferation. The authors extracted nine signal pathways closely associated with CVD in PharmGkb (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011).

As the main components in the VEGF system, proto-oncogene tyrosine-protein kinase Src, eNOS, and hsp90-α is also recognized as common targets of Dalbergia odorifera, Ligusticum chuanxiong and Corydalis yanhusuo, which are efficient for the treatment of CVD. This implies that the candidate drugs can target different target proteins involved in the same or different signal pathways, and thereby have potential effects on the whole signal system.

Target Prediction
In search of the candidate targets, the model that efficiently integrates the chemical, genomic and pharmacological information for drug targeting and discovery on a large scale is based on the two powerful methods Random Forest (RF) and Support Vector Machine (SVM). The model is supported by a large pharmacological database of 6511 drugs and 3999 targets extracted from the DrugBank database (available online:; accessed on 1 June 2011), and shows an impressive performance of prediction for drug-target interaction, with a concordance of 85.83%, a sensitivity of 79.62% and a specificity of 92.76%. the candidate targets were selected according to the criteria that the possibility of interacting with potential candidate targets was higher than 0.6 for the RF model and 0.7 for the SVM model. The obtained candidate targets were finally reserved and were further predicted for their targets.

Target Validation
Molecular docking analysis was carried out using the AutoDock software (available online:; accessed on 1 February 2012). This approach performs the docking of the small, flexible ligand to a set of grids describing the target protein. During the docking process, the protein was considered as rigid and the molecules as flexible. The crystal structures of the candidate targets were downloaded from the RCSB Protein Data Bank (available online:; accessed on 1 December 2011), and the proteins without crystal structures were performed based on homology modeling using the Swiss-Model Automated Protein Modelling Server (available online:; accessed on 1 February 2012).

TCM is a heritage that is thousands of years old and is still used by millions of people all over the world—even after the development of modern scientific medicine. Chinese herbal combinations generally include one or more plants and even animal products.

The study identified 54 protein targets, which are closely associated with CVD for the three Chinese herbs, of which 29 are common targets (52.7%), which clarifies the mechanism of efficiency of the herbs for the treatment of CVD.

Activation of NFkB

Extracellular stimuli for NFkB activation and NFkB regulated genes
Extracellular stimuli                       Regulated genes
TNFa                                         Growth factors (G/M-CSF)
Interleukin 1                            G/M CSF, M CSF, G CSF
ROS                                              Cell adhesion molecules
UV light                            ICAM-1, VCAM, E-Selectin, P-selectin
Ischaemia                                   Cytokines
Lipopolysaccharide               TNFa, IL-1, IL-2, IL-6, interferon
Bacteria                                        Transcription regulators
Viruses                                         P53, IkB, c-rel, c-myc
Amyloid                                      Antiapoptotic proteins
Glutamate                              TRAF-1, TRAF-2, c-IAP1, c-IAP2
Reactive oxygen species (ROS) are toxic and in conditions of a dysbalance between their overproduction and the diminished activity of various antioxidant enzymes and other molecules induce cellular injury termed oxidative stress. ROS are often related to a number of diseases like atherosclerosis. However, the mechanism is not clear at all. Latest years of research have brought the idea of connection between ROS and NFkB. And indeed, in vitro studies showed a rapid activation of NFkB after exposure of certain cell types to ROS. Today, no specific receptor for ROS has been found, thus, the details of the ROS induced activation of NFkB are missing.

Natural occurring agents which actions are still a matter of debate in the theory and nouvelle small molecular derivates activate or inhibit the transcriptional factor. Synthetic oligo and polypeptide inhibitors of NFkB can penetrate the cell membrane and directly act on the Rel proteins. The most sophisticated approaches towards inhibiting the activation and translocation of NFkB into the nucleus represent gene deliveries, using plasmids or adenoviruses containing genes for various super repressors—modified IkB proteins, or so called NFkB decoys, which interact with activated NFkB and thus, inhibit the interaction between the transcription factor and nuclear DNA enhancers.

A simplified scheme of the activation of NFkB by the degradation of IkB. IkB is phosphorylated by IKK and ubiquinatated by the ubiquitine ligase system (ULS). IkB is further degradated by the 26S proteasome (26S).Activated NFkB can pass the nuclear membrane and interact with kB binding sequences in enhancers of NFkB regulated genes. LPS, lipopolysaccharide; ROS, reactive oxygen species; FasL, Fas ligand; TRAF, TNFa receptor associated factor; NIK, NFkB inducing kinase; MEKK, mitogen activated protein kinase/extracellular signal regulated kinases kinases.

The medicine of this century is a medicine of molecules, the diagnostic procedure and the therapy moves further from the “clinical picture” to the use of achievements in molecular biology and genetics. However, sober scepticism and awareness are indicated. Especially the role of NFkB in multiple signal transducing pathways and the tissue dependent variability of responses to alternations in NFkB pathway may be the reasons for unwanted side effects of the therapy that are after in vitro or in vivo experiments hardly to expect in the clinical use.

Therapeutic Targets
Modern drug discovery is primarily based on the search and subsequent testing of drug candidates acting on a preselected therapeutic target. Progress in genomics, protein structure, proteomics, and disease mechanisms has led to a growing interest in an effort for finding new targets and more effective exploration of existing targets. The number of reported targets of marketed and investigational drugs has significantly increased in the past 8 years. There are 1535 targets collected in the therapeutic target database.
Knowledge of these targets is helpful for molecular dissection of the mechanism of action of drugs and for predicting features that guide new drug design and the
search for new targets. This article summarizes the progress of target exploration and investigates the characteristics of the currently explored targets to analyze their sequence, structure, family representation, pathway association, tissue distribution, and genome location features for finding clues useful for searching for new targets. Possible “rules” to guide the search for druggable proteins and the feasibility of using a statistical learning method for predicting druggable proteins directly from their sequences are discussed.

Current Trends in Exploration of Therapeutic Targets
There are 395 identifiable targets described in 1606 patents. Of these targets, 264 have been found in more than one patent and 50 appear in more than 10 patents. The number of patents associated with a target can be considered to partly correlate with the level of effort and intensity of interest currently being directed to it. Approximately one third of the patents with an identifiable target were approved in the past year. This suggests that the effort for the exploration of these targets is ongoing, and there has been steady progress in the discovery of new investigational agents directed to these targets.

Various degrees of progress have been made toward discovery and testing of agents directed at these targets. However, for some of these targets, many difficulties remain to be resolved before viable drugs can be derived. The appearance of a high number of patents associated with these targets partly reflects the intensity of efforts for finding effective drug candidates against these targets.

There are 62 targets being explored for the design of subtype-specific drugs, which represents 15.7% of the 395 identifiable targets in U.S. patents approved in 2000 through 2004. Compared with the 11 targets of FDA approved subtype-specific drugs during the same period, a significantly larger number of targets are being explored for the design of subtype-specific drugs.

What Constitutes a Therapeutic Target?
The majority of clinical drugs achieve their effect by binding to a cavity and regulating the activity, of its protein target. Specific structural and physicochemical properties, such as the “rule of five” (Lipinski et al., 2001), are required for these drugs to have sufficient levels of efficacy, bioavailability, and safety, which define target sites to which drug-like molecules can bind. In most cases, these sites exist out of functional necessity, and their structural architectures accommodate target-specific drugs that minimally interact with other functionally important but structurally similar sites.
These constraints limit the types of proteins that can be bound by drug-like molecules, leading to the introduction of the concept of druggable proteins (Hopkins and Groom, 2002; Hardy and Peet, 2004). Druggable proteins do not necessarily become therapeutic targets (Hopkins and Groom, 2002); only those that play key roles in diseases can be explored as potential targets.

 Prediction of Druggable Proteins by a Statistical Learning Method

Currently, the support vector machine (SVM) method seems to be the most accurate statistical learning method for protein predictions. SVM is based on the structural risk minimization principle from statistical learning theory. Known proteins are divided into druggable and nondruggable classes; each of these proteins is represented by their sequence-derived physicochemical features.

These features are then used by the SVM to construct a hyperplane in a higher dimensional hyperspace that maximally separates druggable proteins and nondruggable ones. By projecting the sequence of a new protein onto this hyperspace, it can be determined whether this protein is druggable from its location with respect to the hyperplane. It is a druggable protein if it is located on the side of druggable class.

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Lev-Ari, A. Stem cells create new heart cells in baby mice, but not in adults, study shows

Lev-Ari, A. Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production

Lev-Ari, A. Bystolic’s generic Nebivolol – positive effect on circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells endogenous augmentation

Lev-Ari, A. Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs: Reduction Methods for CV Risk

Lev-Ari, A. Heart patients’ skin cells turned into healthy heart muscle cells

Lev-Ari, A. Resident-cell-based Therapy in Human Ischaemic Heart Disease: Evolution in the PROMISE of Thymosin beta4 for Cardiac Repair

 Nitric Oxide and Sepsis, Hemodynamic Collapse, and the Search for Therapeutic Options

Congestive Heart Failure & Personalized Medicine: Two-gene Test predicts response to Beta Blocker Bucindolol

Mediterranean Diet is BEST for patients with established Heart Disorders

NO Nutritional remedies for hypertension and atherosclerosis. It’s 12 am: do you know where your electrons are?

Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation
Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs

Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

Reveals from ENCODE project will invite high synergistic collaborations to discover specific targets

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Clinical Trials Results for Endothelin System: Pathophysiological role in Chronic Heart Failure, Acute Coronary Syndromes and MI – Marker of Disease Severity or Genetic Determination?

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


UPDATED on 8/17/2018

Ambrisentan (U.S. trade name Letairis; E.U. trade name Volibris; India trade name Pulmonext by MSN labs) is a drug indicated for use in the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.

The peptide endothelin constricts muscles in blood vessels, increasing blood pressure. Ambrisentan, which relaxes those muscles, is an endothelin receptor antagonist, and is selective for the type A endothelin receptor (ETA).[1] Ambrisentan significantly improved exercise capacity (6-minute walk distance) compared with placebo in two double-blind, multicenter trials (ARIES-1 and ARIES-2).[2]

Ambrisentan was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and European Medicines Agency, and designated an orphan drug, for the treatment of pulmonary hypertension.[3][4][5][6][7]

Ambrisentan is an endothelin receptor antagonist used in the therapy of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Ambrisentan has been associated with a low rate of serum enzyme elevations during therapy, but has yet to be implicated in cases of clinically apparent acute liver injury.

Ambrisentan was first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Jun 15, 2007, then approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Apr 21, 2008 and approved by Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency of Japan (PMDA) on Jul 23, 2010. In 2000, Abbott, originator of ambrisentan, granted Myogen (acquired by Gilead in 2006) a license to the compound for the treatment of PAH. In 2006, GlaxoSmithKline obtained worldwide rights to market the compound for PAH worldwide, with the exception of the U.S. It is marketed as Letairis® by Gilead in US.

Ambrisentan is an endothelin receptor antagonist, and is selective for the type A endothelin receptor (ETA). It is indicated for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) (WHO Group 1) to improve exercise ability and delay clinical worsening. Studies establishing effectiveness included predominantly patients with WHO Functional Class II-III symptoms and etiologies of idiopathic or heritable PAH (64%) or PAH associated with connective tissue diseases (32%).

Letairis® is available as film-coated tablet for oral use, containing 5 or 10 mg of free Ambrisentan. The recommended starting dose is 5 mg once daily with or without food, and increase the dose to 10 mg once daily if 5 mg is tolerated.


Introduction to Endothelin

Endothelin (ET) derived from vascular endothelial cells (ECs), which consists of a 21 amino acid peptide, has a strong and persistent vasoconstrictive action (1). ET has three family peptides (ET-1, ET-2, and ET-3). As the distribution and properties of these peptides are different, each peptide is believed to play specific physiological roles. ET has two types of receptor: the ETA receptor with a high affinity for ET-1 and ET-2 is mainly located on muscle cells, whereas the ETB receptor with an affinity for all three peptides lies on endothelial, epithelial, endocrine, and nerve cells. Of the three ET isoforms,

ET-1 plays a much more important role in the regulation of vascular tone than the others and has a powerful effect on the cardiovascular system. Thus, the role of ET-1 and its receptors as the etiology or precipitating factors in various cardiovascular diseases (CVD) has been investigated (2, 3). In addition, numerous studies have reported effective treatment targeted at ET-1 in pulmonary hypertension, salt-sensitive hypertension, diabetes, and acute and chronic kidney diseases using ETconverting enzyme (ECE) inhibitors and ET-receptor antagonists (2, 4). Several animal models genetically lacking ET-1 and ET receptors have also been used as a tool for determining the physiological and pathophysiological roles of ET-1 and ET receptors in CVD (5 – 10).

Fig. 1.

Schematic illustration of ET-1 production and ET receptor–mediated actions on vascular endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells. G: G protein, ROS: reactive oxygen species, CaM: calmodulin, AA: arachidonic acid, PGI2: prostaglandin I2, AC: adenylate cyclase, sGC: soluble guanylate cyclase.

Figure Source: Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, 119, 302 – 313 (2012)

Introduction to the ET system

Endothelial Cells (ECs) are known as the main physiological source of vascular ET-1. Vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), macrophages, leukocytes, cardiomyocytes, and fibroblasts are also capable of ET-1 production (11 – 13).

Several studies have indicated that various physical and chemical factors such as thrombin, angiotensin II, cytokines, hypoxia, and shear stress stimulate ET-1 gene expression in ECs by DNA binding of transcription factors including activator protein-1, GATA-2, Smad, nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), and hypoxia inducible factor-1 (14 – 18). On the other hand, ET-1 is synthesized as an inactive 203-amino-acid precursor, preproET-1, which is proteolytically cleaved to yield a second inactive 39 (or 38)-amino-acid segment called ‘big’ ET-1.

The last part of the proteolytic process is mainly carried out by ECE (ECE-1 and ECE-2) and leads to the production of the bioactive form of 21-amino-acid peptide ET-1. As ET-1 release from ECs is constitutive, ET-1 biosynthesis and release appear to be mainly controlled via regulation of gene transcription and/or ECE activity.

On the other hand, although another ETB-receptor subtype (ETB2) located on VSMCs exerts vasoconstriction, it has become clear that ETB2 receptor–induced vasoconstriction is negligible under normal conditions but becomes more important in some kinds of diseases such as atherosclerosis and essential hypertension (24 – 26).

Has the considerable promise of ET-1 manipulation as a therapeutic option been realized? Its release, perhaps from a dysfunctional endothelium, could have a major role in the pathogenesis of a variety of cardiovascular diseases (reviewed by Haynes and Webb, 1992 andRubanyi and Polokoff, 1994). The discovery of endothelin-1 (ET-1) almost 20 years ago (Yanagisawa et al., 1988) was rapidly followed by prospects that pharmacological manipulation of the ET-1 system might provide powerful new treatments for many clinically significant cardiovascular conditions.
Fig. 2.
Proposed explanation for the interaction between the ET-1 system and norepinephrine (NE) release from cardiac sympathetic nerve endings in protracted myocardial ischemia. ATP is depleted and axoplasmic pH is reduced under ischemic conditions.This diminishes vesicular storage of NE, leading to a large increase in free axoplasmic NE. Compensatory activation of the neuronal Na+/H+ exchanger (NHE) by axoplasmic acidification causes influx of Na+ in exchange for H+. The resulting Na+ accumulation triggers a massive release of free axoplasmic NE via a reversal of the NE transporter (NET). Released NE acts on postsynaptic adrenoceptors on myocytes. Stimulation of the ETA receptor existing in sympathetic nerve endings by endogenously generated or exogenously applied ET-1 enhances neuronal NHE activity and results in increases in NE release. In contrast, exogenously applied big ET-1 is converted to ET-1 by ECE-1 expressed on the cell surface, and this ET-1 preferentially binds to the ETB receptor located on NOS-containing cells. As a result, increments in NO production cause inhibition of NE release. NCX: Na+/Ca2+ exchanger, VMAT: vesicular monoamine transporter.
Over 200 references in this paper trace the trail of experiments and clinical trials conducted by induction of therapeutic potential compounds that target the ET system. The role of ET-1 in cardiovascular disease and development of pharmacological tools that manipulate its activity, include agents that
The rapid identification of such compounds led remarkably quickly to the development of orally active antagonists (Clozel et al., 1994) and their administration to patients (Kiowski et al., 1995). Additional insight into ET physiology has been gained from studies with
most dramatically revealing the crucial role of ET-1 in development (Kurihara et al., 1994) and regulation of salt excretion (Ahn et al., 2004Bagnall et al., 2006Ge et al., 2006).

The recent licensing of

  • bosentan
  • sitaxsentan and
  • ambrisentan

for treatment of PAH is the most obvious demonstration of the clinical benefit derived from therapeutic manipulation of the ET-1 system in cardiovascular disease. This development of one of the first effective treatments for a condition with poor prognosis has obvious clinical significance and is likely to be extended to include PAH associated with connective tissue disorders.

Thus, ET antagonists are already realizing their potential in treatment of cardiovascular diseases, while early clinical data suggest these compounds may prove beneficial in other conditions, such as resistant hypertension, chronic kidney disease and SAH. In contrast, a potential role in conditions associated with vascular remodelling (restenosis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and transplant graft rejection) remains speculative and requires further investigation. It should also be noted that the clinical experience with ET antagonists in patients with cardiovascular disease remains relatively limited and the design of new trials could be improved using knowledge gained from previous studies, particularly with regard to drug dose and selectivity. These successes must obviously be balanced against the failure of ET antagonists to realize their potential in the treatment of heart failure, and the fact that teratogenic effects have restricted their possible use to treatment of conditions where childbearing potential is unlikely to be an issue.

Several reasons have been proposed to account for the disappointing outcomes in clinical trials as compared to investigations using animal models of disease, including

  • inadequate models or a bias in publication towards positive outcomes;
  • incorrect dose/timing of administration;
  • the need to show additional benefit over existing treatments; and
  • ET activation being a consequence rather than a cause of the condition.

Whatever the reason, this experience urges caution in extrapolating data obtained in vitro and in animals to humans. It is hoped that additional information will emerge from unpublished clinical trials that will shed light on previous failures (Kelland and Webb, 2006), and that the combination of powerful pharmacological and molecular approaches will help us to better understand the role of ETA and ETB receptors in health and disease so as to fully realize the clinical potential created by the identification of the powerful vasoconstrictor peptide, ET-1.

Further studies have addressed the role of ET receptor antagonism in erectile dysfunction and aneurysmal SAH, with mixed results. A double-blind pilot study of 53 patients with mild-to-moderate erectile dysfunction demonstrated no benefit of the ETA-selective antagonist BMS-193884 (100mg by mouth) over placebo (Kim et al., 2002).

The ETA-selective antagonist clazosentan was specifically designed for intravenous use in conditions characterized by cerebral vasoconstriction. Its potential in treating severe aneurysmal SAH has recently been addressed in a phase IIa pilot study for the Clazosentan to Overcome Neurological iSChaemia and Infarction OccUrring after Sub-arachnoid haemorrhage (CONSCIOUS-1) trial (Vajkoczy et al., 2005). This ‘pre-CONSCIOUS-1′ study documented a reduction in the frequency and severity of cerebral vasospasm following SAH.

There is considerable evidence that the potent vasoconstrictor endothelin-1 (ET-1) contributes to the pathogenesis of a variety of cardiovascular diseases. As such, pharmacological manipulation of the ET system might represent a promising therapeutic goal. Many clinical trials have assessed the potential of ET receptor antagonists in cardiovascular disease, the most positive of which have resulted in the licensing of the mixed ET receptor antagonist bosentan, and the selective ETA receptor antagonists, sitaxsentan and ambrisentan, for the treatment of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).
In contrast, despite encouraging data from in vitro and animal studies, outcomes in human heart failure have been disappointing, perhaps illustrating the risk of extrapolating preclinical work to man. Many further potential applications of these compounds, including
  • resistant hypertension,
  • chronic kidney disease,
  • connective tissue disease and
  • sub-arachnoid haemorrhage
are currently being investigated in the clinic. Furthermore, experience from previous studies should enable improved trial design and scope remains for development of improved compounds and alternative therapeutic strategies.

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Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation 

Author and Curator of an Investigator Initiated Study: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

A Three Component Method for Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs

Macrovascular Disease: The  Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs

Observations on Intellectual Property Development For an Unrecognized Future Fast Acting Therapy for Patients at High Risk for Macrovascular events

ElectEagle represents a discovery of a novel “multimarker biomarker” for cardiovascular disease that innovates on four counts.

First, it proposes new therapeutic indications for acceptable drugs.

Second, it defines a specific combination of therapeutic agents, thus, it put forth a proprietary drug combination.

Third, it targets receptor systems that have not been addressed in the context of cEPCs augmentation methods. Chiefly, modulation of the following three-targeted receptor systems: (a) inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB receptors by antagonists (b) induction of eNOS, by agonists and NO stimulation and (c) upregulation of PPAReceptor-gamma by agonists (TZD). While (b) and (c) are implicated as having favorable effects of cEPCs count, each exerting its effect by a different pathway, it is suggested in this project that (a) might be identify to be the more powerful of the three markers. Our method, ElectEagle is the FIRST to postulate the following: (1) time concentration dependence on eNOS reuptake (2) dose concentration dependence on NO production (3) time and dose concentration dependence for ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB inhibition, and (4) dose concentration dependence on PPAReceptor-gamma. Points First, Second and Third are covered in Part II where a special focus is placed on ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB receptors.

Fourth, ElectEagle proposes a platform with triple modes of delivery and use of the test, as described in Part III. The triple modes are as follows: (A) an automated platform from a centralized lab with integration to Lab’s information management system. (B) a point-of-care testing device with appropriate display of test results (small benchtop analyzers in PCP office). (C) a device used for home monitoring of analytes (the hand-held device facilitates rapid read of scores and their translation to drug concentration of each of the three therapeutic agents, with computation of the three drug concentrations done by the device. Thus, it offers quicker optimization of treatment.  ElectEagle is the FIRST to propose a CVD patient kit, hand-held device, which calculates on demand an adjustable therapeutic regimen as a function of cEPCs count biomarker. In this regard, a similarity to the pump, in management of blood sugar in DM patients, exists. Since there is a high co-morbidity between DM and CVD, our methods, ElectEagle may eventually become a targeted therapy for the DM Type 2 population.

Postulates of Multiple Indications for the Method Presented: Positioning of a Therapeutic Concept for Endogenous Augmentation of cEPCs

Potential Therapeutic Indications for ElectEagle

ElectEagle can become the drug therapy of choice for the following indications:

  •       CAD patients
  •       Endothelial Dysfunction in DM patients with or without Erectile   Dysfunction
  •       Atherosclerosis patients: Arteries and or veins
  •       pre-stenting treatment phase
  •       post-stenting treatment phase
  •       if stent is a Bare Metal stent (BMS)
  •       if stent is Drug Eluting stent (DES)
  •       if stent is EPC antibody coated (the ElectEagle method increase cEPCs generation in vitro) so availability of cEPCs is increased
  •       post CABG patients (the ElectEagle enhances healing by endogenous augmentation of cEPCs)
  •       target sub segments of CVD patients on blood thinner drugs (the ElectEagle does not require treatment with antiplatelet agents, it is suitable for all patients on Coumadin. This population have a counter indication for antiplatelet agents which is a follow up treatment after stent implantation for 30 days, with stent-eluting long term regimen of antiplatelet agents, 6 months and in some cases indefinitely (Tung, 2006).
  •       ElectEagle is based on systemic therapeutics (versus the localized stent solution requiring multiple and even overlapping stents)
  •       ElectEagle will be having potential in two contexts

1.  Coronary disease

2.  Periphery vascular disease

Comparative analysis of endogenous and exogenous cEPCs augmentation methods:

A. endogenous augmentation method properties:

  •    temporal – while drug therapy in use – drug action is interruptible
  •    time concentration on eNOS reuptake
  •    dose concentration on NO production
  •    time and dose concentration manner for ETB inhibition
  •    dose concentration on PPAR-gamma

B.  cell-based and other exogenous methods

  • permanent colonization till apoptosis if no repeated attempts of re-transfer, re-implantation as the protocol usually has several stages

ElectEagle will be resulting in potential delay of stenting implantation. Patients that are target for stenting may benefit form ElectEagle that will facilitate and accelerate healing after the stent is in place. EPC antibody coated stents will work if and only if the patient has more that just low cEPCs, most patient undergoing stenting tend to have low level of cEPC. The ElectEagle method can be coupled with that type of new stents, called Genous, now in clinical trials (HEALING II, III). These stents enhance the body ability in mobilization of cEPCs, only. However, if the initial population of cEPCs is low, an endogenous fast acting cell augmentation method is needed for pretreatment before the PCI procedure with Genous is scheduled.

Mechanism of action (MOA) for ElectEagle‘s component 1

Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB

Source for vasodilators substances in the endothelium are PGI2 and NO. A potent vasoconstrictor peptide is the endothelin family, first isolated in the aortic endothelial cells.

Endothelins: Biosynthesis, Structure & Clearance

Three isoforms of endothelin (ET) have been identified. ET-1, ET-2 and ET-3. Each isoform is the product of a different gene and is synthesized as a prepro form that is processed to a propeptide and then to the mature peptide. Endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE) converts a prepro into a mature peptide. Each ET is a 21-amino-acid peptide containing two disulfide bridges. ETs are widely distributed in the body. ET-1 is the predominant ET secreted by the vascular endothelium. It is also produced by neurons and astrocytes in CNS and in endometrial, renal mesangial, sertoli, breast epithelial and other cells. ETs are present in the blood in low concentrations, they act locally in a paracrine or autocrine fashion rather than as circulating hormones.

Expression of ET-1 gene is increased by Growth Factors and cytokines, transforming factor-beta (TGF-beta) and interleukin 1 (IL-1), vasoactive substances including angiotensin II and vasopressing and mechanical stress. Expression is inhibited by NO, prostacyclin and ANP (source for vasodilators substances in the endothelium are PGI2 and NO.) Clearance of ETs from the circulation is rapid and involves enzymatic degradation by NEP 24.11 and clearance by the ETB receptor.

Endothelins: Action

ET exerts many actions on the body. In particular dose-dependent vasoconstriction in most vascular beds. Intravenous administration of ET-1 causes a rapid decease in BP followed by a prolonged increase. The depressor response results PGI2 and NO release from the vascular endothelium. The pressor response is due to direct constriction of vascular smooth muscle. ETs exert direct positive inotropic and chronotropic actions on the heart and are potent coronary vasoconstrictors. ETs actions on other organ is described in (Reid, 2004). ETs interact with several endocrine systems, increase secretion of renin, aldosterone, vasopressin and Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP.) Action exerted on CNS and PNS, GI system, liver, GU, reproductive system, eye, skeletal and skin. ET-1 is a potent mitogen for vascular smooth muscle cells, cardiac myocytes and glomerular mesangial cells.

ET receptors are present in many tissues and organs, blood vessel wall, cardiac muscle, CNS, lung, kidney, adrenal, spleen, and GI. The signal transduction mechanism triggered by binding of ET-1 to its receptors, ETA & ETB includes effects of stimulation of phospholipase C, formation of inositol triphosphate and release of calcium from the ER which results in vasoconstriction. Stimulation of PGI2 and NO synthesis result in decreased intracellular calcium concentration and vasodilation.

Two receptor subtypes, ETA & ETB have been cloned and sequenced. ETA receptors have a high affinity for ET-1 and a low affinity for ET-3 and are located on smooth muscle cells, where they mediate vasoconstriction. ETB receptors have an equal affinity for ET-1 and ET-3 and are located on vascular ECs, where they mediate release of PGI2 and NO. Both receptor types belong to the G protein-coupled seven-transmembrane domain family of receptors.

Inhibitors of Endothelin Synthesis & Action

ETs can be blocked with receptor antagonists and with drugs that block the Endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE), Endothelin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ECEI). Two receptor subtypes, ETA & ETB can be blocked selectively, or both can be blocked with nonselective ETA – ETB antagonists. Bosentan is a nonselective antagonist, available both intravenously and orally. It blocks the initial transient depressor (ETB ) and the prolonged pressor (ETA) responses to intravenous ET. Oral ET antagonists are available for research purposes. The formation of Endothelin-converting enzyme (ECE) can be blocked with Phosphoramidon. The therapeutic potential of ECEI is similar to that of the ET receptor antagonist, Bosentan, an active competitive inhibitor of ET [it has teratogenic and hepatotexic effects].

Physiologic & Pathologic Roles of Endothelin Antagonists

Systemic administration of ET receptor antagonists or ECEI causes vasodilation and decreases arterial pressure in human and in experimental animals. Intra-arterial administration of the drugs also causes slow-onset forearm vasodilation in humans. This is an evidence that the endothelin system participates in the regulation of vascular tone, even under resting conditions (Reid, 2004).

There is evidence that ETs participate in CVD, including hypertension, cardiac hypertrophy, CHF, atherosclerosis, CAD, MI. ETs have been implicated in pulmonary diseases, PA HTN, asthma, renal diseases. Increased ET levels was found in the blood, increased expression of ET mRNA in endothelial or vascular smooth muscle cells and the responses to administration of ET antagonists. ET antagonists have potential for treatment of these diseases. In clinical trials, Bosentanand other nonselective antagonists as well as ETA selective antagonists produce beneficial effects on hemodynamics and symptoms of CHF, PA HTN and essential HTN (Sütsch et al., 1998), (Haynes, 1996), (Lahav et al., 1999). Currently, it is approved for use in pulmonary hypertension (Benowitz, 2004).

ElectEagle Project Drug combination Therapy has selected Bosentan or other nonselective ET antagonists as well as ETA selective antagonists to enhance the effects an eNOS agonist and a PPAR-gamma agonist will have on CVD patient’s propensity to achieve beneficial effects for endogenous augmentation of cEPCs. The impact the ETs have on the body is of a very wide range and of a most important from a physiological point of view, respectively, we did not leave Big ET-1 out of the therapeutic treatment design.

Proposed integration plan for ElectEagle’s Version I with CVD patients current medication regimen for selective medical diagnoses

Blood Pressure Medicine:

Beta blockers, Verapamil (Calan), Reserpine (Hydropes), Clonidine (Catapres), Methyldopa (Aldomet)


Thiazides, Spironolactone (Aldactone), Hydralazine


Prozac, Lithium, MOA’s, Tricyclics

Stomach Medicine:

Tagamet and Zantac, plus other compounds containing Cimetidine and Ranitidine or associated compounds in Anticholesterol Drugs


Chlorpromazine (Thorazine), Pimozide (Orap), Thiothixine (Navane), Thiordazine (Mellaril), Sulpiride, Haloperidol (haldol), Fluphenazine (Modecate, Prolixin)

Heart Medicine:

Clofibrate (Atromid), Gemfibrozil, Diagoxin


Estrogen, Progesterone, Proscar, Casodex, Eulexin, Corticosteroids Gonadotropin releasing antagonists: Zoladex and Lupron

Cytotoxic agents:

Cyclophosphamide, Methotrexate, Roferon Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories


Alprazolam, Amoxapine, Chlordiazepoxide, Sertraline, Paroxetine, Clomipramine, Fluvoxamine, Fluoxetine, Imipramine, Doxepine, Desipramine, Clorprothixine, Bethanidine, Naproxen, Nortriptyline, Thioridazine, Tranylcypromine, Venlafaxine, Citalopram.

INTERACTIONS for Nebivolol

Calcium Antagonists:

Caution should be exercised when administering beta-blockers with calcium antagonists of the verapamil or diltiazem type because of their negative effect on contractility and atrio-ventricular conduction. Exaggeration of these effects can occur particularly in patients with impaired ventricular function and/or SA or AV conduction abnormalities. Neither medicine should therefore be administered intravenously within 48 hours of discontinuing the other.


Caution should be exercised when administering beta-blockers with Class I anti-arrhythmic drugs and amiodarone as their effect on atrial conduction time and their negative inotropic effect may be potentiated. Such interactions can have life threatening consequences.


Beta-blockers increase the risk of rebound hypertension after sudden withdrawal of chronic clonidine treatment.


Digitalis glycosides associated with beta-blockers may increase atrio-ventricular conduction times. Nebivolol does not influence the kinetics of digoxin & clinical trials have not shown any evidence of an interaction.

Special note: Digitalisation of patients receiving long term beta-blocker therapy may be necessary if congestive cardiac failure is likely to develop. The combination can be considered despite the potentiation of the negative chronotropic effect of the two medicines. Careful control of dosages and of individual patient’s response (notably pulse rate) is essential in this situation.

Insulin & Oral Antidiabetic drugs:

Glucose levels are unaffected, however symptoms of hypoglycemia may be masked.


Concomitant use of beta-blockers & anaesthetics e.g. ether, cyclopropane & trichloroethylene may attenuate reflex tachycardia & increase the risk of hypotension

Testing ElectEagle’s a-priori postulates presented in Part I

a-priori postulates presented in Part I for Component 1:ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB inhibition

  • time and dose concentration dependence for ETA and ETA-ETB inhibition

 In the literature we found evidence for dose concentration dependence manner (Reid, 2004).


ETA and ETA-ETB inhibitor time concentration dependence manner dose concentration dependencemanner time and dose dose  
Bosentan   (Reid, 2004)   62.5, 125 mg tablets

a-priori postulates presented in Part I for Component 2: NO, eNOS induction and stimulation

  • time concentration dependence on eNOS reuptake
  • dose concentration dependence on NO production

In the literature we found evidence for dose concentration dependence manner

Ach, Histamine, Genistein, ACEI, Fenofibrates, NEBIVOLOL, Calcium channel blocker, Enzyme S-nitrosylation

In the literature we found evidence for time concentration dependence manner:

Ach, BRL37344, a 3-adrenoceptor agonist

In the literature we found evidence for time and dose concentration dependence manner:


NO, eNOS AgonistsStimulate phosphorylation of eNOS at serine 1177, 1179, 116 Conversion of L-arginine toL-citrulline time concentration dependence manner dose concentration dependencemanner time and dose dose (nmol·mg

of protein-1)

Grovers et al., (2002)

A23187       (5µM)
Acetylcholine Xu et al., (2002) Sanchez et al., (2006)   (1µM)
5-Hydroxytryptamine       (1µM)
VEGF (       (20ng/ml)
Bradykinin       (1µM)
Histamine   McDuffie et al., (1999) McDuffie et al., (2000) (10µM)
genistein   Liu et al., (2004)   (1µM)
ACEI   Skidgel et al., (2006)    
Fenofibrates   Asai et al., (2006)    
BRL37344, a 3-adrenoceptor agonist Pott et al., (2005)      
NEBIVOLOLß1-selective adrenergic receptor antagonist with nitric oxide (NO)–mediation for vasodilation


  Ritter et al., (2006)    
Calcium channel blocker   Church and Fulton, (2006),    
Enzyme S-nitrosylation   Erwin et al., (2006)    


a-priori postulates presented in Part I for Component 3: PPAR-gamma

  • dose concentration dependence on PPAReceptor-gamma – confirmed by a study for Rosiglitazone and a study for Ciglitazone
PPAReceptor-gamma agonists time concentration dependence manner dose concentration dependencemanner time and dose dose  
Rosiglitazone   Polikandriotis et al., (2005)   maximum recommended daily dose of 8 mg to 2,000 mg.
Ciglitazone Polikandriotis et al., (2005)    

Development of an Experimental Treatment Protocol for

ElectEagle Version I

Therapeutic Strategy for cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for measuring the number of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs) before and after a newly design treatment with Pharmacological agents

Component 1: Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB

Bosentan (Tracleer) Oral: 62.5, 125 mg tablets


Component 2: Induction of NO production and stimulation of eNOS

Nebivolol – ß1-selective adrenergic receptor antagonist with nitric oxide (NO)– mediation for vasodilation

A single daily dose of 5 mg was appropriate, with no evident advantage at 10 mg (Van Nueten et al.,1997)

Component 3: Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD)

A Substitute for Rosiglitazone, 2-8 mg once daily

The combination drug therapy for endogenous augmentation of cEPCs in CVD patients for achievement of reduction in risk for macrovascular events is recommended to be applied for Clinical Trial Phase One in the following regimen:

Use the following combination of drugs for the following Stages

Bosentan (Tracleer), Oral: 62.5 mg tablets

Nebivolol, Oral: 5mg once daily

A substitute for Rosiglitazone, 8 mg once daily


Stage 1: ET-1 Antagonist Effect on eEPC

1.0 Measurement of the Baseline of number of cEPC

1.1 Administer ET-1 antagonist for 10 days

1.2 Measurement of number of cEPC after 10 days of treatment with ET-1 antagonist

Stage 2: Nitric Oxide Effect on cEPC

2.0 Measurement of number of cEPC obtained in 1.2

2.1 Administer Nitric Oxide Agonist for 10 days

2.2 Measurement of number of cEPC after 10 days of

treatment with Nitric Oxide Agonist

Stage 3: Comparison of ET-1 and NO Effects on cEPC Proliferation

3.0 Comparison of number of cEPC in 1.2 to 2.2

¨     IF number of cEPC in 1.2 > number of cEPC in 2.2

-> continue 1.1 only

[ET-1 antagonist more effective for proliferation of cEPC than NO Agonist]

3.1.1      Measurement of number of cEPC every 10 days

¨     IF number of cEPC in 1.2 < number of cEPC in 2.2

-> continue 2.1 only

[ET-1 antagonist less effective for proliferation of cEPC than NO Agonist]

3.2.1      Measurement of number of cEPC every 10 days

¨     IF number of cEPC in 1.2 = number of cEPC in 2.2

-> continue 1.1 AND 2.1

[ET-1 antagonist equal NO Agonist in effectiveness for proliferation of cEPC]

-> Administer a Combination therapy of ET-1 antagonist and NO Agonist for 10 days

3.3.1      Measurement of number of cEPC every 10 days

Stage 4: ET-1 and/or NO Effect on Cardiovascular (CV) Events

q      After 12 months Comparison of CV events in patient population in

Stage 3.1, 3.2, 3.3

  • Cardiovascular events in patients in 3.1
  • Cardiovascular events in patients in 3.2
  • Cardiovascular events in patients in 3.3


  •       Most favorable and unexpected to us was finding in the literature new indications for TDZs as stimulators of eNOS, in addition to the new indication for atherosclerosis besides the classic indication in pharmacology books, being in the reduction of insulin resistance. Reassuring our selection of a substitute for Rosiglitazone.
  •       Most favorable and unexpected to us was finding in the literature new indications for beta blockers as NO stimulant, nebivolol, a case in point, thus, fulfilling two indications in one drug along the direction of the study to identify eNOS agonists.
  •       The following combination of drugs was selected for ElectEagle Version I

Bosentan (Tracleer), Oral: 62.5 mg tablets

Nebivolol, Oral: 5mg once daily

A Substitute for Rosiglitazone, 8 mg once daily

  •       We confirmed time and dose concentrations postulating apriori in most cases. Additional literature searches will benefit the project for the three drugs selected
  •       We have identified Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB as one of the agent in the drug combination. The entire literature on cEPCs does not implicate Endothelin with impact on eEPCs while it is known that mechanical stress increase its secretion, this type of stress is implicated with hypertension. To leave out ET-1 from the cEPCs function in CVD risk equates to leaving out Thrombin from the coagulation cascade. ElectEagle Version I corrects that ommission. 


Benowitz, NL., (2004). Antihypertensive Agents. Chapter 11 in Katzung, BG., Basic & Clinical Pharmacology. McGraw-Hill, 9th Edition, pp. 160-183.

Haynes WG, Ferro CJ, O’Kane KP, Somerville D, Lomax CC, Webb DJ, (1996). Systemic endothelin receptor blockade decreases peripheral vascular resistance and blood pressure in humans. Circulation, 15;93(10):1860-70. 

N S Kirkby, P W F Hadoke, A J Bagnall, and D J Webb (2008)

The endothelin system as a therapeutic target in cardiovascular disease: great expectations or bleak house? Br J Pharmacol. 2008 March; 153(6): 1105–1119.

Ohkita Mamoru, Masashi Tawa, Kento Kitada and Yasuo Matsumura (2012). Pathophysiological Roles of Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases,  J Pharmacol Sci 119, 302 – 313 (2012)

Reid, Ian A., (2004). Vasoactive Peptides. Chapter 17 in Katzung, BG., Basic & Clinical Pharmacology. McGraw-Hill, 9th Edition, pp. 281 – 297, in particular, Endothelins, pp. 290-293.

  For a comprehensive Bibliography on the Three Therapeutic Componenets and the pathophysiology of Cardiovascular Disease, follow this link:

Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

 Other aspects of Nitric Oxide involvement in biological systems in humans are covered in the following posts on this site:

Nitric Oxide in bone metabolism July 16, 2012

Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS


Nitric Oxide production in Systemic sclerosis July 25, 2012

Curator: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS


Nitric Oxide Signalling Pathways August 22, 2012 by

Curator/ Author: Aviral Vatsa, PhD, MBBS


Nitric Oxide: a short historic perspective August 5, 2012

Author/Curator: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS


Nitric Oxide: Chemistry and function August 10, 2012

Curator/Author: Aviral Vatsa PhD, MBBS


Nitric Oxide and Platelet Aggregation August 16, 2012 by

Author: Dr. Venkat S. Karra, Ph.D.


The rationale and use of inhaled NO in Pulmonary Artery Hypertension and Right Sided Heart Failure August 20, 2012

Author: Larry Bernstein, MD

Nitric Oxide: The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1998 Robert F. Furchgott, Louis J. Ignarro, Ferid Murad August 16, 2012

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Coronary Artery Disease – Medical Devices Solutions: From First-In-Man Stent Implantation, via Medical Ethical Dilemmas to Drug Eluting Stents August 13, 2012

Author: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Nano-particles as Synthetic Platelets to Stop Internal Bleeding Resulting from Trauma

August 22, 2012

Reported by: Dr. V. S. Karra, Ph.D.

Cardiovascular Disease (CVD) and the Role of agent alternatives in endothelial Nitric Oxide Synthase (eNOS) Activation and Nitric Oxide Production July 19, 2012

Curator and Research Study Originator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Macrovascular Disease – Therapeutic Potential of cEPCs: Reduction Methods for CV Risk

July 2, 2012

An Investigation of the Potential of circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells (cEPCs) as a Therapeutic Target for Pharmacological Therapy Design for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction: A New Multimarker Biomarker Discovery

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN


Bone remodelling in a nutshell June 22, 2012

Author: Aviral Vatsa, Ph.D., MBBS

Targeted delivery of therapeutics to bone and connective tissues: current status and challenges- Part, September  

AuthorL Aviral Vatsa, PhD, September 23, 2012

Calcium dependent NOS induction by sex hormones: Estrogen

Curator: S. Saha, PhD, October 3, 2012


Nitric Oxide and Platelet Aggregation,

Author V. Karra, PhD, August 16, 2012

Bystolic’s generic Nebivolol – positive effect on circulating Endothelial Progenitor Cells endogenous augmentation

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, July 16, 2012


Endothelin Receptors in Cardiovascular Diseases: The Role of eNOS Stimulation

Author: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, 10/4/2012


Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB, Induction of NO production, stimulation of eNOS and Treatment Regime with PPAR-gamma agonists (TZD): cEPCs Endogenous Augmentation for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction – A Bibliography

Curator: Aviva Lev-Ari, 10/4/2012.


Nitric Oxide Nutritional remedies for hypertension and atherosclerosis. It’s 12 am: do you know where your electrons are?

Author and Reporter: Meg Baker, 10/7/2012.

Drug Information

Component 1: Inhibition of ET-1, ETA and ETA-ETB

Bosentan (Tracleer)

BACKGROUND: Although local inhibition of the generation or actions of endothelin-1 has been shown to cause forearm vasodilatation, the systemic effects of endothelin receptor blockade in healthy humans are unknown. We therefore investigated the cardiovascular effects of a potent peptide endothelin ETA/B receptor antagonist, TAK-044, in healthy men. METHODS AND RESULTS: Two randomized, placebo-controlled, crossover studies were performed. In nine subjects, TAK-044 (10 to 1000 mg IV over a 15-minute period) caused sustained dose-dependent peripheral vasodilatation and hypotension. Four hours after infusion of the highest dose (1000 mg), there were decreases in mean arterial pressure of 18 mm Hg and total peripheral resistance of 665 AU and increases in heart rate of 8 bpm and cardiac index of 0.9 L x min(-1) x m(-2) compared with placebo. TAK-044 caused a rapid, dose-dependent increase in plasma immunoreactive endothelin (from 3.3 to 35.7 pg/mL within 30 minutes after 1000 mg). In a second study in eight subjects, intravenous administration of TAK-044 at doses of 30, 250, and 750 mg also caused peripheral vasodilatation, and all three doses abolished local forearm vasoconstriction to brachial artery infusion of endothelin-1. Brachial artery infusion of TAK-044 caused local forearm vasodilation. CONCLUSIONS: The endothelin ETA/B receptor antagonist TAK-044 decreases peripheral vascular resistance and, to a lesser extent, blood pressure; increases circulating endothelin concentrations; and blocks forearm vasoconstriction to exogenous endothelin-1. These results suggest that endogenous generation of endothelin-1 plays a fundamental physiological role in maintenance of peripheral vascular tone and blood pressure. The vasodilator properties of endothelin receptor antagonists may prove valuable therapeutically (Haynes et al., 1996).


BRAND NAME(S): Tracleer

WARNING: This medication may cause serious liver problems. Your doctor should monitor your liver function closely to decrease your risk of liver-related side effects. Tell your doctor immediately if you notice any of these symptoms of liver problems: nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, unusual tiredness, and yellowing eyes or skin. These effects, if they occur, may go away over time (are reversible). This medication must not be used during pregnancy because it can cause fetal harm (e.g., birth defects). See the pregnancy warning information below (in Precautions section).

USES: Bosentan is used to treat a condition of high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary arterial hypertension). It works by causing the blood vessels (arteries) in the lungs to relax and expand, thus decreasing the pressure.

HOW TO USE: Before using, review the bosentan Medication Guide for information on the safe use of this medicine. Take this medication by mouth usually twice daily in the morning and evening with or without food; or as directed by your doctor. The dosage is based on your medical condition and response to therapy. Your doctor may recommend to gradually increase your dose over time so your body may better adjust to the effects of this drug. Do not stop taking this medication without consulting your doctor. Some conditions may become worse when the drug is abruptly stopped. Your dose may need to be gradually decreased.

SIDE EFFECTS: Headache, nose/throat irritation, itching, flushing, or stomach upset may occur. If any of these effects persist or worsen, notify your doctor or pharmacist promptly. Tell your doctor immediately if any of these unlikely but serious side effects occur: irregular heartbeat, unusual tiredness and weakness, swelling of the feet or ankles, trouble breathing, dizziness or lightheadedness. If you notice any of the following very serious side effects of liver problems, stop taking bosentan and consult your doctor immediately: vomiting, stomach pain, yellowing eyes or skin. A serious allergic reaction to this drug is unlikely, but seek immediate medical attention if it occurs. Symptoms of a serious allergic reaction include: rash, itching, swelling, dizziness, severe trouble breathing. If you notice other effects not listed above, contact your doctor or pharmacist.

PRECAUTIONS: Tell your doctor your medical history, especially of: liver problems, blood disorders (e.g., anemia), any allergies. Caution is advised when using this drug in the elderly because they may be more sensitive to the effects of the drug. This medication must not be used during pregnancy because it may cause fetal harm. If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant, do not take this medication and consult your doctor immediately. It is recommended that you use two reliable forms of birth control while taking this medicine. It is also recommended to have a pregnancy test done before treatment and every month during treatment with this drug. It is not known whether this drug passes into breast milk. Because of the potential risk to the infant, breast-feeding while using this drug is not recommended.

DRUG INTERACTIONS: This drug is not recommended for use with: cyclosporine, glyburide. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for more details. Tell your doctor of all prescription and nonprescription medication you may use, especially: azole antifungals (e.g., itraconazole, ketoconazole), statins for high cholesterol (e.g., lovastatin, simvastatin), HIV protease inhibitors (e.g., indinavir, ritonavir), tacrolimus. This medication may decrease the effectiveness of combination-type birth control pills. This can result in pregnancy. You may need to use an additional form of reliable birth control while using this medication. Consult your doctor or pharmacist for details. Do not start or stop any medicine without doctor or pharmacist approval.

OVERDOSE: If overdose is suspected, contact your local poison control center or emergency room immediately. US residents can call the US national poison hotline at 1-800-222-1222. Canadian residents should call their local poison control center directly.

NOTES: Do not share this medication with others. Laboratory and/or medical tests (e.g., liver function tests- LFT’s, blood tests) will be performed to monitor your progress and for side effects.

MISSED DOSE: If you miss a dose, use it as soon as you remember. If it is near the time of the next dose, skip the missed dose and resume your usual dosing schedule. Do not double the dose to catch up.

STORAGE: Store at room temperature between 68 and 77 degrees F (20 and 25 degrees C) away from light and moisture. Brief storage between 59 and 86 degrees F (15 and 30 degrees C) is permitted.

MEDICAL ALERT: Your condition can cause complications in a medical emergency. For enrollment information call MedicAlert at 1-800-854-1166 (USA), or 1-800-668-1507

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