BACKGROUND: Cardiac fibroblasts play important functional and pathophysiological roles. Intracellular ("intracrine") angiotensin-II (Ang-II) signaling regulates intercellular communication, excitability, and gene expression in cardiomyocytes; however, the existence and role of intracrine Ang-II signaling in cardiac fibroblasts is unstudied. Here, we evaluated the localization of Ang-II receptors on atrial fibroblast nuclei and associated intracrine effects of potential functional significance.
METHODS AND RESULTS: Immunoblots of subcellular protein-fractions from isolated canine atrial fibroblasts indicated the presence of nuclear Ang-II type 1 receptors (AT1Rs) and Ang-II type 2 receptors (AT2Rs). Fluorescein isothiocyanate-Ang-II binding displaceable by AT1R- and AT2R-blockers was present on isolated fibroblast nuclei. G-protein subunits, including Gαq/11, Gαi/3, and Gβ, were observed in purified fibroblast nuclear fractions by immunoblotting and intact-fibroblast nuclei by confocal immunocytofluorescence microscopy. Nuclear AT1Rs and AT2Rs regulated de novo RNA synthesis ([α32P]UTP incorporation) via IP3R- and NO-dependent pathways, respectively. In intact cultured fibroblasts, intracellular Ang-II release by photolysis of a membrane-permeable caged Ang-II analog led to IP3R-dependent nucleoplasmic Ca2+-liberation, with IP3R3 being the predominant nuclear isoform. Intracellular Ang-II regulated fibroblast proliferation ([3H]thymidine incorporation), collagen-1A1 mRNA-expression, and collagen secretion. Intracellular Ang-II and nuclear AT1R protein levels were significantly increased in a heart failure model in which atrial fibrosis underlies atrial fibrillation.
CONCLUSIONS: Fibroblast nuclei possess AT1R and AT2R binding sites that are coupled to intranuclear Ca2+-mobilization and NO liberation, respectively. Intracellular Ang-II signaling regulates fibroblast proliferation, collagen gene expression, and collagen secretion. Heart failure upregulates Ang-II intracrine signaling-components in atrial fibroblasts. These results show for the first time that nuclear angiotensin-II receptor activation and intracrine Ang-II signaling control fibroblast function and may have pathophysiological significance.
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