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Cardiovasc Res. 2014 Feb 1;101(2):236-46. doi: 10.1093/cvr/cvt245. Epub 2013 Nov 4.

Deletion of angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 promotes the development of atherosclerosis and arterial neointima formation.

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  • 1Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, University of Tokyo Graduate School of Medicine, Tokyo 113-8655, Japan.



Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is known as a negative regulator of the renin-angiotensin system. We aimed to determine the roles of ACE2 on the development of vascular diseases.


Using two diversely different models of vascular diseases, hyperlipidaemia-induced atherosclerosis in apolipoprotein E knockout (KO) mice and mechanical injury-induced arterial neointimal hyperplasia in C57Bl6 mice, we examined whether ACE2 deficiency could affect formation of the vascular lesions. ACE2 deficiency resulted in significantly larger vascular lesions in both aortic atherosclerotic plaques and arterial neointima formation, compared with ACE2(+) control. These ACE2-deficient vascular lesions exhibited enhanced accumulation of macrophages into the lesions and proliferation of vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), accompanied with increased angiotensin-II (Ang-II) levels and enhanced expression of vascular inflammation-related genes, including vascular cell adhesion molecule (VCAM)-1, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP)-1, and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)9 in aorta/artery tissues. Primary bone marrow macrophages and aortic VSMCs isolated from ACE2 KO mice also displayed enhanced pro-inflammatory responsiveness such as up-regulated gene/protein expression of VCAM-1, MCP-1, and MMP9 to stimulation with tumour necrosis factor-α and Ang-II. The similar phenotype was shown in human macrophages and aortic VSMCs that were transfected with ACE2-specific siRNA. In ACE2-deficient VSMCs, inhibition of c-Jun N-terminal kinase (JNK) by pharmacological blockade with SP600125 or genetic knockdown with JNK-specific siRNA significantly attenuated their pro-inflammatory phenotype.


ACE2 deficiency promotes the development of vascular diseases associated with Ang-II-mediated vascular inflammation and activation of the JNK signalling, leading to the notion that ACE2 potentially confers protection against vascular diseases.


Angiotensin II; Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 remodelling; Atherosclerosis; Vascular disease; c-Jun N-terminal kinase

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