Author(s): Shafique E, Choy WC, Liu Y, Feng J, Cordeiro B
Age-associated decline in cardiovascular function is believed to occur from the deleterious effects of reactive oxygen species (ROS). However, failure of recent clinical trials using antioxidants in patients with cardiovascular disease, and the recent findings showing paradoxical role for NADPH oxidase-derived ROS in endothelial function challenge this long-held notion against ROS. Here, we examine the effects of endothelium-specific conditional increase in ROS on coronary endothelial function. We have generated a novel binary (Tet-ON/OFF) conditional transgenic mouse (Tet-Nox2:VE-Cad-tTA) that induces endothelial cell (EC)-specific overexpression of Nox2/gp91 (NADPH oxidase) and 1.8?0.42-fold increase in EC-ROS upon tetracycline withdrawal (Tet-OFF). We examined ROS effects on EC signaling and function. First, we demonstrate that endothelium-dependent coronary vasodilation was significantly improved in Tet-OFF Nox2 compared to Tet-ON (control) littermates. Using EC isolated from mouse heart, we show that endogenous ROS increased eNOS activation and nitric oxide (NO) synthesis through activation of the survival kinase AMPK. Coronary vasodilation in Tet-OFF Nox2 animals was CaMKK?-AMPK-dependent. Finally, we demonstrate that AMPK activation induced autophagy and thus, protected ECs from oxidant-induced cell death. Together, these findings suggest that increased ROS levels, often associated with cardiovascular conditions in advanced age, play a protective role in endothelial homeostasis by inducing AMPK-eNOS axis.