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Angiogenesis is vital during pregnancy for remodeling and enhancing vasodilation of maternal uterine arteries, and increasing uterine blood flow. Abnormal angiogenesis is associated with decreased uteroplacental blood flow and development of pregnancy disorders such as gestational hypertension, preeclampsia, fetal growth restriction, preterm delivery, stillbirth, and miscarriage. The mechanisms that contribute to normal angiogenesis remain obscure. Our previous studies demonstrated that expression of the angiotensin type 2 receptor (AT2R) is increased while the angiotensin type 1 receptor (AT1R) is unchanged in the endothelium of uterine arteries, and that AT2R-mediated pregnancy adaptation facilitates enhanced vasodilation and uterine arterial blood flow. However, the role of AT2R in regulating angiogenesis during pregnancy has never been studied. This study examines whether or not AT2R activation induces angiogenesis and, if so, what mechanisms are involved. To this end, we used primary human uterine artery endothelial cells (hUAECs) isolated from pregnant and nonpregnant women undergoing hysterectomy. The present study shows that Compound 21, a selective AT2R agonist, induced proliferation of pregnant-hUAECs, but not nonpregnant-hUAECs, in a concentration-dependent manner, and that this C21-induced mitogenic effect was blocked by PD123319, a selective AT2R antagonist. The mitogenic effects induced by C21 were inhibited by blocking JNK-but not ERK, PI3K, and p38-signaling pathways. In addition, C21 concentration dependently increased cell migration and capillary-like tube formation in pregnant-hUAECs. The membrane-based antibody array showed that C21 increased expression of multiple angiogenic proteins, including EGF, bFGF, leptin, PLGF, IGF-1, and angiopoietins. Our qPCR analysis demonstrates that C21-induced increase in expression of these angiogenic proteins correlates with a proportional increase in mRNA expression, indicating that AT2R activates angiogenic proteins at the transcriptional level. In summary, the present study shows that AT2R activation induces angiogenesis of hUAECs in a pregnancy-specific manner through JNK-mediated pathways with associated transcriptional upregulation of multiple proangiogenic proteins.


Jay S Mishra, Dong-Bao Chen, Sathish Kumar. AT2R activation increases in vitro angiogenesis in pregnant human uterine artery endothelial cells. PloS one. 2022;17(4):e0267826

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PMID: 35486619

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