Human urotensin II (U-II), the most potent vasoconstrictor undecapeptide identified to date, and its receptor (UT) are involved in the pathogenesis of systemic and pulmonary hypertension. Here, we review recent advances in our understanding of the pathophysiology of U-II with particular reference to its role in atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases. Single-nucleotide polymorphisms of U-II gene (S89N) are associated with onset of essential hypertension, type II diabetes mellitus, and insulin resistance in the Asian population. Plasma U-II levels are elevated in patients with vascular endothelial dysfunction-related diseases such as essential hypertension, diabetes mellitus, atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, and heart failure. Chronic infusion of U-II enhances atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta in apolipoprotein Eknockout mice. In human atherosclerotic plaques from the aorta and coronary and carotid arteries, U-II is expressed at high levels in endothelial cells (ECs) and lymphocytes, whereas UT is expressed at high levels in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs), ECs, monocytes, and macrophages. U-II stimulates vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 expression in human ECs as chemoattractant for monocytes, and accelerates foam cell formation by up-regulation of acyl-coenzyme A:cholesterol acyltransferase-1 in human monocyte-derived macrophages. U-II produces reactive oxygen species (ROS) via nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase activation in human VSMCs, and stimulates VSMC proliferation with synergistic effects when combined with ROS, oxidized LDL, and serotonin. Clinical studies demonstrated increased plasma U-II levels in accordance with the severity of carotid atherosclerosis in patients with essential hypertension and that of coronary artery lesions in patients with ischemic heart disease. Here, we summarize the key roles of U-II in progression of hypertension and atherosclerotic cardiovascular diseases.
Urotensin II, hypertension, atherosclerosis, coronary artery disease, cardiovascular medicine
Department of Biochemistry, Showa University School of Medicine, 1-5-8 Hatanodai, Shinagawa-ku, Tokyo 142-8555, Japan.