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Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol. 2013 Mar;33(3):595-604. doi: 10.1161/ATVBAHA.112.300606. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Aberrant endoplasmic reticulum stress in vascular smooth muscle increases vascular contractility and blood pressure in mice deficient of AMP-activated protein kinase-α2 in vivo.

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Section of Molecular Medicine, Department of Medicine, University of Oklahoma Health Science Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.



The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) plays a critical role in ensuring proper folding of newly synthesized proteins. Aberrant ER stress is reported to play a causal role in cardiovascular diseases. However, the effects of ER stress on vascular smooth muscle contractility and blood pressure remain unknown. The aim of this study was to investigate whether aberrant ER stress causes abnormal vasoconstriction and consequent high blood pressure in mice.


ER stress markers, vascular smooth muscle contractility, and blood pressure were monitored in mice. Incubation of isolated aortic rings with tunicamycin or MG132, 2 structurally unrelated ER stress inducers, significantly increased both phenylephrine-induced vasoconstriction and the phosphorylation of myosin light chain (Thr18/Ser19), both of which were abrogated by pretreatment with chemical chaperones or 5-Aminoimidazole-4-carboxamide ribonucleotide and metformin, 2 potent activators for the AMP-activated protein kinase. Consistently, administration of tauroursodeoxycholic acid or 4-phenyl butyric acid, 2 structurally unrelated chemical chaperones, in AMP-activated protein kinase-α2 knockout mice lowered blood pressure and abolished abnormal vasoconstrictor response of AMP-activated protein kinase-α2 knockout mice to phenylephrine. Consistently, tunicamycin (0.01 μg/g per day) infusion markedly increased both systolic and diastolic blood pressure, both of which were ablated by coadministration of 4-phenyl butyric acid. Furthermore, 4-phenyl butyric acid or tauroursodeoxycholic acid, which suppressed angiotensin II infusion-induced ER stress markers in vivo, markedly lowered blood pressure in angiotensin II-infused mice in vivo.


We conclude that ER stress increases vascular smooth muscle contractility resulting in high blood pressure, and AMP-activated protein kinase activation mitigates high blood pressure through the suppression of ER stress in vivo.

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