Aldosterone is a key factor in adverse cardiovascular remodeling by acting on the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) in different cell types. Endothelial MR activation mediates hypertrophy, inflammation and fibrosis. Cardiovascular remodeling is often accompanied by impaired angiogenesis, which is a risk factor for the development of heart failure. In this study, we evaluated the impact of MR in endothelial cells on angiogenesis.
Deoxycorticosterone acetate (DOCA)–induced hypertension was associated with capillary rarefaction in the heart of wildtype mice but not of mice with cell type-specific MR deletion in endothelial cells. Consistently, endothelial MR deletion prevented the inhibitory effect of aldosterone on the capillarization of subcutaneously implanted silicon tubes and on capillary sprouting from aortic ring segments. We examined MR-dependent gene expression in cultured endothelial cells by RNA-seq and identified a cluster of differentially regulated genes related to angiogenesis. We found opposing effects on gene expression when comparing activation of the mineralocorticoid receptor in ECs to treatment with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a potent activator of angiogenesis.
In conclusion, we demonstrate here that activation of endothelial cell MR impaired angiogenic capacity and lead to capillary rarefaction in a mouse model of MR-driven hypertension. MR activation opposed VEGF-induced gene expression leading to the dysregulation of angiogenesis-related gene networks in endothelial cells. Our findings underscore the pivotal role of endothelial cell MR in the pathophysiology of hypertension and related heart disease.