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J Mol Cell Cardiol. 2000 Jun;32(6):865-79.

Induction of cardiac fibrosis by aldosterone.

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  • 1Department of Molecular and Cardiovascular Research, Faculty of Medicine, University of Leuven, Belgium. paul.lijnen@med.kuleuven.ac.be


An intracardiac aldosterone system which responds to short- and long-term physiological stimuli has been described. This cardiac generated aldosterone has possibly autocrine or paracrine actions. Normal cardiac tissue contains mineralocorticoid receptors (MR) and cardiac high affinity MR are localized in cardiac myocytes and endothelial cells. Data concerning the presence of MR in cardiac fibroblasts are, however, controversial. MR are not specific for aldosterone but they also bind glucocorticoids. Cardiac fibroblasts however contain the enzyme 11beta-hydroxy-steroid dehydrogenase II which converts these glucocorticoids to inactive metabolites. Discordant findings on the in vitro effect of aldosterone on the collagen synthesis in cardiac fibroblasts are reported and can at least partly attributed to the presence of various fibroblasts phenotypes. During chronic aldosterone infusion in uninephrectomized rats on a high-salt diet, a marked accumulation of interstitial and to a lesser extent perivascular collagen occurs in the heart in both ventricles. This cardiac fibrosis in this aldosteronism model is prevented by spironolactone. This effect of aldosterone is crucially dependent on the salt status of the rat. Indeed, rats on a restricted salt intake infused with aldosterone had no cardiac fibrosis above control levels. During the continuous infusion of aldosterone in the rat the appearance of fibrosis was delayed and starts 4 weeks after the beginning of the infusion which argues against a direct effect of aldosterone. The mechanism of aldosterone-salt induced cardiac fibrosis possibly involves angiotensin II acting through upregulated AT1 receptors and the cardiac AT1 receptor is the target for aldosterone. An accumulation of collagen in the heart has also been found in patients with adrenal adenomas and during chronic activation of the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system such as in surgically induced unilateral renal ischemia, unilateral renal artery banding or renovascular hypertension. Spironolactone prevents aortic collagen accumulation in spontaneously hypertensive rats. In patients with stable chronic heart failure spironolactone treatment in addition to diuretics and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition reduced circulating levels of procollagen type III N-terminal aminopeptide. Also, in the Randomized Aldactone Evaluation Study spironolactone coadministered with conventional therapy of ACE inhibitors, loop diuretics and digitalis in patients with symptomatic heart failure defined as NYHA classes III-IV reduces total mortality by 30%.

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