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      Vascular smooth muscle contraction in hypertension

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          Hypertension is a major risk factor for many common chronic diseases, such as heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke, vascular dementia, and chronic kidney disease. Pathophysiological mechanisms contributing to the development of hypertension include increased vascular resistance, determined in large part by reduced vascular diameter due to increased vascular contraction and arterial remodelling. These processes are regulated by complex-interacting systems such as the renin-angiotensin-aldosterone system, sympathetic nervous system, immune activation, and oxidative stress, which influence vascular smooth muscle function. Vascular smooth muscle cells are highly plastic and in pathological conditions undergo phenotypic changes from a contractile to a proliferative state. Vascular smooth muscle contraction is triggered by an increase in intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca 2+] i), promoting actin–myosin cross-bridge formation. Growing evidence indicates that contraction is also regulated by calcium-independent mechanisms involving RhoA-Rho kinase, protein Kinase C and mitogen-activated protein kinase signalling, reactive oxygen species, and reorganization of the actin cytoskeleton. Activation of immune/inflammatory pathways and non-coding RNAs are also emerging as important regulators of vascular function. Vascular smooth muscle cell [Ca 2+] i not only determines the contractile state but also influences activity of many calcium-dependent transcription factors and proteins thereby impacting the cellular phenotype and function. Perturbations in vascular smooth muscle cell signalling and altered function influence vascular reactivity and tone, important determinants of vascular resistance and blood pressure. Here, we discuss mechanisms regulating vascular reactivity and contraction in physiological and pathophysiological conditions and highlight some new advances in the field, focusing specifically on hypertension.

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          Molecular regulation of vascular smooth muscle cell differentiation in development and disease.

          The focus of this review is to provide an overview of the current state of knowledge of molecular mechanisms/processes that control differentiation of vascular smooth muscle cells (SMC) during normal development and maturation of the vasculature, as well as how these mechanisms/processes are altered in vascular injury or disease. A major challenge in understanding differentiation of the vascular SMC is that this cell can exhibit a wide range of different phenotypes at different stages of development, and even in adult organisms the cell is not terminally differentiated. Indeed, the SMC is capable of major changes in its phenotype in response to changes in local environmental cues including growth factors/inhibitors, mechanical influences, cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, and various inflammatory mediators. There has been much progress in recent years to identify mechanisms that control expression of the repertoire of genes that are specific or selective for the vascular SMC and required for its differentiated function. One of the most exciting recent discoveries was the identification of the serum response factor (SRF) coactivator gene myocardin that appears to be required for expression of many SMC differentiation marker genes, and for initial differentiation of SMC during development. However, it is critical to recognize that overall control of SMC differentiation/maturation, and regulation of its responses to changing environmental cues, is extremely complex and involves the cooperative interaction of many factors and signaling pathways that are just beginning to be understood. There is also relatively recent evidence that circulating stem cell populations can give rise to smooth muscle-like cells in association with vascular injury and atherosclerotic lesion development, although the exact role and properties of these cells remain to be clearly elucidated. The goal of this review is to summarize the current state of our knowledge in this area and to attempt to identify some of the key unresolved challenges and questions that require further study.
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            Calcium sensitization of smooth muscle mediated by a Rho-associated protein kinase in hypertension.

            Abnormal smooth-muscle contractility may be a major cause of disease states such as hypertension, and a smooth-muscle relaxant that modulates this process would be useful therapeutically. Smooth-muscle contraction is regulated by the cytosolic Ca2+ concentration and by the Ca2+ sensitivity of myofilaments: the former activates myosin light-chain kinase and the latter is achieved partly by inhibition of myosin phosphatase. The small GTPase Rho and its target, Rho-associated kinase, participate in this latter mechanism in vitro, but their participation has not been demonstrated in intact muscles. Here we show that a pyridine derivative, Y-27632, selectively inhibits smooth-muscle contraction by inhibiting Ca2+ sensitization. We identified the Y-27632 target as a Rho-associated protein kinase, p160ROCK. Y-27632 consistently suppresses Rho-induced, p160ROCK-mediated formation of stress fibres in cultured cells and dramatically corrects hypertension in several hypertensive rat models. Our findings indicate that p160ROCK-mediated Ca2+ sensitization is involved in the pathophysiology of hypertension and suggest that compounds that inhibit this process might be useful therapeutically.
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              Angiotensin II stimulates NADH and NADPH oxidase activity in cultured vascular smooth muscle cells.

              The signaling pathways involved in the long-term metabolic effects of angiotensin II (Ang II) in vascular smooth muscle cells are incompletely understood but include the generation of molecules likely to affect oxidase activity. We examined the ability of Ang II to stimulate superoxide anion formation and investigated the identity of the oxidases responsible for its production. Treatment of vascular smooth muscle cells with Ang II for 4 to 6 hours caused a 2.7 +/- 0.4-fold increase in intracellular superoxide anion formation as detected by lucigenin assay. This superoxide appeared to result from activation of both the NADPH and NADH oxidases. NADPH oxidase activity increased from 3.23 +/- 0.61 to 11.80 +/- 1.72 nmol O2-/min per milligram protein after 4 hours of Ang II, whereas NADH oxidase activity increased from 16.76 +/- 2.13 to 45.00 +/- 4.57 nmol O2-/min per milligram protein. The NADPH oxidase activity was stimulated by exogenous phosphatidic and arachidonic acids and was partially inhibited by the specific inhibitor diphenylene iodinium. NADH oxidase activity was increased by arachidonic and linoleic acids, was insensitive to exogenous phosphatidic acid, and was inhibited by high concentrations of quinacrine. Both of these oxidases appear to reside in the plasma membrane, on the basis of migration of the activity after cellular fractionation and their apparent insensitivity to the mitochondrial poison KCN. These observations suggest that Ang II specifically activates enzyme systems that promote superoxide generation and raise the possibility that these pathways function as second messengers for long-term responses, such as hypertrophy or hyperplasia.

                Author and article information

                Cardiovasc Res
                Cardiovasc. Res
                Cardiovascular Research
                Oxford University Press
                15 March 2018
                31 January 2018
                31 January 2018
                : 114
                : 4
                : 529-539
                [1 ]BHF Glasgow Cardiovascular Research Centre, Institute of Cardiovascular and Medical Sciences, University of Glasgow, 126 University Place, Glasgow G12 8TA, UK
                [2 ]Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
                Author notes
                Corresponding author. Tel: +44 141 330 7775/7774; fax: +44 141 330 3360, E-mail: rhian.touyz@

                This article is part of the Spotlight Issue on Novel concepts for the role of smooth muscle cells in vascular disease.

                © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the European Society of Cardiology.

                This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted reuse, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Pages: 11
                Funded by: British Heart Foundation 10.13039/501100000274
                Award ID: CH/4/29762
                Funded by: BHF 10.13039/501100000274
                Award ID: RE/13/5/30177
                Invited Spotlight Reviews

                Cardiovascular Medicine

                contraction, dilation, calcium, actin cytoskeleton, rho kinase, vascular tone


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