Endogenous kinins are important vasoactive peptides whose effects are mediated by two G-Protein-coupled receptors (R), named B2R (constitutive) and B1R (inducible). They are involved in vascular homeostasis, ischemic pre- and post- conditioning, but also in cardiovascular diseases. They contribute to the therapeutic effects of angiotensin-1 converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI) and angiotensin AT1 receptor blockers. Benefits derive primarily from vasodilatory, antiproliferative, antihypertrophic, antifibrotic, antithrombic and antioxidant properties, which are associated with the release of endothelial factors such as nitric oxide, prostacyclin and tissue plasminogen activator. Uncontrolled production of kinins or the inhibition of their metabolism may lead to unwanted pro-inflammatory side effects. Thus, B2R antagonism is salutary in angioedema, septic shock, stroke, and Chagas vasculopathy. B1R is virtually absent in healthy tissues, yet this receptor is induced by the cytokine pathway and the oxidative stress via the transcriptional nuclear factor NF-κB. The B1R may play a compensatory role for the lack of B2R, and its up-regulation during tissue damage may be a useful mechanism of host defense. Activation of both receptors may be beneficial, notably in neovascularisation, angiogenesis, heart ischemia and diabetic nephropathy. At the same time, B1R is a potent activator of inducible nitric oxide and NADPH oxidase, which are associated with vascular inflammation, increased permeability, insulin resistance, endothelial dysfunction and diabetic complications. The dual beneficial and deleterious effects of kinin receptors and, particularly B1R, raise an unsettled issue on the therapeutic value of B1R/B2R agonists versus antagonists in cardiovascular diseases. Hence, the Janus-face of kinin receptors needs to be seriously addressed in the upcoming clinical trials for each pathological setting.
Keywords: ACEI, AT1 receptor blockers, bradykinin, B1-kinin receptor, B2-kinin receptor, diabetes mellitus, endothelium, inflammation, ischemia, nitric oxide, oxidative stress.