Cardiovascular disease is prevalent in developed countries causing very large burdens to health services. The underlying pathology is atheromatous plaque in the sub-endothelial region of the vascular wall. High levels of low density lipoprotein cholesterol and high blood pressure cause endothelial damage. Atheroma develop from a response to this injury that is perpetuated to chronic inflammation. The invasion of inflammatory leukocytes into atheroma during its development and in the precipitation of acute thrombotic events is mediated by adhesion molecules on the cell surface. These are regulated by the actin filament cytoskeleton which also mediates intracellular signalling from them. The actin cytoskeleton is central to NADPH oxidase activation that produces superoxide which is an intracellular signalling molecule for the hypertensive and inflammatory actions of angiotensin II. There are polymorphisms in actin filament proteins such as adducin and caldesmon and in the promoter regions of tropomyosins that may cause individual variation in these processes. Many signalling molecules in the actin filament response to inflammatory stimuli and in signalling downstream from actin filaments are small G-proteins that require post-transcriptional modification by isoprenoids from the cholesterol synthetic pathway. Statins deplete the isoprenoids and so down regulate G-proteins that mediate the inflammatory response. Angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors and angiotensin II receptor type 1 antagonists decrease angiotensin II stimulated superoxide production thus decreasing not only blood pressure but also inflammation. The antiinflammatory effects of these drugs, involving altered actin filament function, are a major contributor to their benefits in the treatment of cardiovascular disease. The feasibility of modifying the behaviour of actin filament proteins as a therapeutic approach for cardiovascular disease is considered.
Keywords: Actin filaments, angiotensin, atheroma, cardiovascular disease, cytoskeleton, inflammation, isoprenoids, statins
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