Background: Endothelial dysfunction accompanies cardiac hypertrophy and fibrosis, but its contribution to these conditions is unclear. Increased nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase-2 (NOX2) activation causes endothelial dysfunction.
Methods: Transgenic mice with endothelial-specific NOX2 overexpression (TG mice) and wild-type littermates received long-term angiotensin II (AngII) infusion (1.1 mg/kg/day, 2 weeks) to induce hypertrophy and fibrosis.
Results: TG mice had systolic hypertension and hypertrophy similar to those seen in wild-type mice but developed greater cardiac fibrosis and evidence of isolated left ventricular diastolic dysfunction (p < 0.05). TG myocardium had more inflammatory cells and VCAM-1-positive vessels than did wild-type myocardium after AngII treatment (both p < 0.05). TG microvascular endothelial cells (ECs) treated with AngII recruited 2-fold more leukocytes than did wild-type ECs in an in vitro adhesion assay (p < 0.05). However, inflammatory cell NOX2 per se was not essential for the profibrotic effects of AngII. TG showed a higher level of endothelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) than did wild-type mice after AngII infusion. In cultured ECs treated with AngII, NOX2 enhanced EMT as assessed by the relative expression of fibroblast versus endothelial-specific markers.
Conclusions: AngII-induced endothelial NOX2 activation has profound profibrotic effects in the heart in vivo that lead to a diastolic dysfunction phenotype. Endothelial NOX2 enhances EMT and has proinflammatory effects. This may be an important mechanism underlying cardiac fibrosis and diastolic dysfunction during increased renin-angiotensin activation.