Angiotensin converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) is a negative regulator of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), catalyzing the conversion of Angiotensin II to Angiotensin 1-7. Apelin is a second catalytic substrate for ACE2 and functions as an inotropic and cardioprotective peptide. While an antagonistic relationship between the RAS and apelin has been proposed, such functional interplay remains elusive. Here we found that ACE2 was downregulated in apelin-deficient mice. Pharmacological or genetic inhibition of angiotensin II type 1 receptor (AT1R) rescued the impaired contractility and hypertrophy of apelin mutant mice, which was accompanied by restored ACE2 levels. Importantly, treatment with angiotensin 1-7 rescued hypertrophy and heart dysfunctions of apelin-knockout mice. Moreover, apelin, via activation of its receptor, APJ, increased ACE2 promoter activity in vitro and upregulated ACE2 expression in failing hearts in vivo. Apelin treatment also increased cardiac contractility and ACE2 levels in AT1R-deficient mice. These data demonstrate that ACE2 couples the RAS to the apelin system, adding a conceptual framework for the apelin-ACE2–angiotensin 1-7 axis as a therapeutic target for cardiovascular diseases.
Teruki Sato, Takashi Suzuki, Hiroyuki Watanabe, Ayumi Kadowaki, Akiyoshi Fukamizu, Peter P. Liu, Akinori Kimura, Hiroshi Ito, Josef M. Penninger, Yumiko Imai, Keiji Kuba