The evidence that high levels of endogenous ouabain (EO), a closely related isomer of ouabain, are implicated in human hypertension and cardiac hypertrophy and failure stimulated the pharmacological research for developing novel anti-hypertensive agents active as ouabain antagonists. The pathogenetic mechanisms through which increased EO levels affect cardiovascular system involve the modulation of Na-K ATPase, the key enzyme responsible for renal tubular sodium reabsorption and the activation of signalling transduction pathways implicated in growth-related gene transcription. By studying both genetic and experimental rat models of hypertension and comparing them with humans, our group has demonstrated that elevated levels of circulating EO and the genetic polymorphism of the cytoskeletal protein adducin associate with hypertension and high renal Na-K pump activity. Ouabain itself induces hypertension and up-regulates renal Na-K pump when chronically infused at low doses into rats (OS). In renal cultured cells, either incubated for several days with nanomolar concentrations of ouabain or transfected with the hypertensive adducin genetic variant, the Na-K pump results enhanced. Moreover, both EO and adducin polymorphism affect cardiac complications associated to hypertension, the former through the activation of a signalling transduction pathway. As a consequence, a compound able to interact with the cellular and molecular alterations, sustained by EO or mutated adducin, may represent the suitable treatment for those patients in whom these mechanisms are at work. A new antihypertensive compound, PST 2238, that selectively antagonises the pressor effect and the alteration of renal Na-K pump, sustained both by ouabain and adducin polymorphism, is described. A selective ability of PST 2238 to antagonise the ouabain-induced organ hypertrophy is also documented. The specificity of PST 2238 mechanism of action is supported by the absence of interactions with receptors or hormones involved in blood pressure regulation and by the lack of diuretic activity and diuretic-associated side effects. It is concluded that this compound could be useful for the treatment of those forms of essential hypertension in which renal Na handling alterations and cardiac complications are associated with either increased EO levels and/or adducin polymorphism.
Keywords: endogenous ouabain, adducin, hypertension, therapy, pharmacogenomics, na-k atpase, antihypertensive drug
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