Therapeutic potential for endothelin receptor antagonists in cardiovascular disorders

L E Spieker, G Noll, T F Lüscher
American Journal of Cardiovascular Drugs: Drugs, Devices, and Other Interventions 2001, 1 (4): 293-303
The endothelins are synthesized in vascular endothelial and smooth muscle cells, as well as in neural, renal, pulmonal, and inflammatory cells. These peptides are converted by endothelin-converting enzymes (ECE-1 and -2) from 'big endothelins' originating from large preproendothelin peptides cleaved by endopeptidases. Endothelin (ET)-1 has major influence on the function and structure of the vasculature as it favors vasoconstriction and cell proliferation through activation of specific ET(A) and ET(B) receptors on vascular smooth muscle cells. In contrast, ET(B )receptors on endothelial cells cause vasodilation via release of nitric oxide (NO) and prostacyclin. Additionally, ET(B) receptors in the lung are a major pathway for the clearance of ET-1 from plasma. Indeed, ET-1 contributes to the pathogenesis of important disorders as arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. In patients with atherosclerotic vascular disease (as well as in many other disease states), ET-1 levels are elevated and correlate with the number of involved sites. In patients with acute myocardial infarction, they correlate with 1-year prognosis. ET receptor antagonists have been widely studied in experimental models of cardiovascular disease. In arterial hypertension, they prevent vascular and myocardial hypertrophy. Experimentally, ET receptor blockade also prevents endothelial dysfunction and structural vascular changes in atherosclerosis due to hypercholesterolemia. In experimental myocardial ischemia, treatment with an ET receptor antagonist reduced infarct size and prevented left ventricular remodeling after myocardial infarction. Most impressively, treatment with the selective ET(A) receptor antagonist BQ123 significantly improved survival in an experimental model of heart failure. In many clinical conditions, such as congestive heart failure, both mixed ET(A/B )as well as selective ET(A) receptor antagonism ameliorates the clinical status of patients, i.e. symptoms and hemodynamics. A randomized clinical trial showed that a mixed ET(A/B) receptor antagonist effectively lowered arterial blood pressure in patients with arterial hypertension. In patients with primary pulmonary hypertension or pulmonary hypertension related to scleroderma, treatment with a mixed ET(A/B) receptor antagonist resulted in an improvement in exercise capacity. ET receptor blockers thus hold the potential to improve the outcome in patients with various cardiovascular disorders. Randomized clinical trials are under way to evaluate the effects of ET receptor antagonism on morbidity and mortality.

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