Role of the renin-angiotensin system in the endocrine pancreas: implications for the development of diabetes

C Tikellis, M E Cooper, M C Thomas
International Journal of Biochemistry & Cell Biology 2006, 38 (5): 737-51
Activation of the renin-angiotensin system has a pivotal role in the pathogenesis of diabetic complications. However, recent evidence suggests that it may also contribute to the development of diabetes itself. In the endocrine pancreas, all the components of an active renin-angiotensin system are present, which modulate a range of activities including local blood flow, hormone release and prostaglandin synthesis. In both types 1 and 2 diabetes, there is an up-regulation of its expression and activity in the endocrine pancreas. Whether these changes have a direct pathogenetic role or reflect a response to local stress or tissue injury remains to be established. Angiotensin-mediated increases in oxidative stress, inflammation and free fatty acids levels potentially contribute to beta-cell dysfunction in diabetes. In addition, activation of the renin-angiotensin system appears to potentiate the action of other pathogenic pathways including glucotoxicity, lipotoxicity and advanced glycation. In experimental models of type 2 diabetes, blockade of the renin-angiotensin system with angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor antagonists results in the improvement of islet structure and function. Moreover, the incidence of de novo diabetes appears to be significantly reduced by blockade of the renin-angiotensin system in clinical studies. At least two large controlled trials are currently underway to study the role of renin-angiotensin system in the development of diabetes. It is hoped that these studies will demonstrate the true potential of the blockade of the renin-angiotensin system for the prevention of diabetes.

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