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      Molecular mechanisms in endothelial regulation of cardiac function.

      Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry

      Animals, physiology, Signal Transduction, metabolism, Reactive Oxygen Species, Myocardium, Myocardial Contraction, Humans, Endothelium, Vascular, Cell Communication

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          Endothelium is now recognized as a massive, regionally specific, multifunctional organ. Given its strategic anatomic location between the circulating blood components and the vascular smooth muscle or the cardiac muscle, it is a biologically significant interface whose dysfunction can be a critical factor in various pathological conditions. Two types of endothelial cells are recognized in the heart, the endocardial endothelial (EE) cells and the microvascular endothelial cells (MVE). Both produce common autacoids and share similar roles in signal transduction induced by neurotransmitters, hormones or mechanical stimuli. They are however two distinct cell populations with dissimilar embryological origin, cytoskeletal organization, receptor mediated functions and electrophysiological properties. Both the MVE and EE are modulators of cardiac performance. Myocardial contraction may be modulated by cardioactive agents such as nitric oxide, prostanoids, endothelin, natriuretic peptides, angiotensin II, kinins, reactive oxygen species and adenyl purines released from the cardiac endothelium. Two mechanisms have been proposed for the signal transduction from EE to the underlying myocytes: stimulus-secretion-contraction coupling and blood-heart barrier. Nitric oxide, bradykinin and myofilament desensitizing agent are probably important in short-term regulation of myocardial functions. Endothelin and Angiotensin II are probably involved in long-term regulation. Besides its sensory function and paracrine modulation of myocardial performance, EE as a blood-heart barrier could be of significance for the ionic homeostasis of the cardiac interstitium. In cardiac diseases, the damage to EE or MVE leading to failure of the endothelial cells to perform its regulatory and modulator functions may have serious consequences. A better understanding of the endothelial signaling pathways in cardiac physiology and pathophysiology may lead to the development of novel therapeutic strategies.

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