Esophagoprotective activity of angiotensin-(1-7) in experimental model of acute reflux esophagitis. Evidence for the role of nitric oxide, sensory nerves, hypoxia-inducible factor-1alpha and proinflammatory cytokines.J Physiol Pharmacol. 2014 Dec; 65(6):809-22.JP
Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a global disease rapidly increasing among world population. The pathogenesis of reflux esophagitis which is considered as the early stage of GERD is complex, resulting from an imbalance between aggressive factors damaging the esophagus and a number of the natural defense mechanisms. The esophageal mucosa is in a state of continuous exposure to potentially damaging endogenous and exogenous factors. Important aggressive components of gastric refluxate include acid and pepsin and also pancreatic enzymes and bile. Among aggressive factors of exogenous origin, cigarette smoking, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID), and steroids are of the utmost importance. The basic level of esophageal defense against acid-pepsin damage consists of the anti-reflux mechanisms such as the luminal acid clearance and removal of the esophageal contents and neutralization of luminal acidity. In addition the esophageal mucosal protection includes the presence of pre-epithelial, epithelial and post-epithelial cellular and functional components. Recently, the progress have been made in the understanding of role of the heptapeptide member of the renin-angiotensin system (RAS), angiotensin-(1-7) (Ang-(1-7)) in the control of gastrointestinal functions. It has been shown that all components of local RAS including Ang-(1-7) are detectable in the gastrointestinal wall including not only the stomach but also the esophagus. Previous studies revealed that Ang-(1-7), which is an important component of the RAS, exerts vasodilatory, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities in the stomach. Ang-(1-7) was recently implicated in gastroprotection, but its effects on esophageal mucosa in a rodent model of reflux esophagitis and in human subjects presenting GERD symptoms have not been explored. The present study was aimed to evaluate the possible protective effects of Ang-(1-7) and Mas-receptors upon esophageal mucosal damage in acute reflux esophagitis (RE) induced in anesthetized rats by ligating the pylorus and the limiting ridge (a transitional region between the forestomach and the corpus of stomach). Consequently, the total gastric reservoir to store gastric juice was greatly diminished, resulting in the reflux of this juice into the esophagus. Because Mas receptors are functionally linked to nitric oxide (NO) formation, we also studied involvement of endogenous NO in the mediation of protective and circulatory effects of exogenous Ang-(1-7). Moreover, an attempt was made to assess the possible role of sensory neurons in the modulation of the protective effects exerted by Ang-(1-7)/Mas receptor system. Six series of rats were pretreated 30 min before induction of RE with 1) vehicle (saline), 2) Ang-(1-7) (5-50 μg/kg i.p.), 3) A779 (50 μg/kg i.p.), the selective Mas receptor antagonist applied alone, 4) Ang-(1-7) (50 μg/kg i.p.) combined with A779, 5) L-NNA (20 mg/kg i.p.) administered alone, and 6) Ang-(1-7) (50 μg/kg i.p.) combined with L-NNA. In separate group of rats, capsaicin (total dosage of 125 mg/kg within three days) was administered s.c. 2 weeks before the induction of RE to induce functional ablation of sensory nerves. Rats with intact sensory nerves and those with capsaicin-induced sensory denervation received vehicle (saline) or Ang-(1-7) (50 μg/kg i.p.) to determine whether this vasoactive metabolite of angiotensin I could be also effective in rats with capsaicin-induced impairment of the synthesis and release of sensory neuropeptides such as CGRP. Four hours after induction of RE, the mucosal damage was graded with mucosal lesion index (LI) from 0 to 6, the esophageal microcirculatory blood flow (EBF) was determined by H2-gas clearance technique and plasma level of pro-inflammatory cytokines interleukin-1b (IL-1β), and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) was determined by ELISA. The expression of proinflammatory factors including COX-2, cytokine IL-1β and hypoxia inducible factor 1alpha (Hif1α) was analyzed in the esophageal mucosal biopsies. In rats with RE, the esophageal LI was significantly elevated comparing its value observed in intact rats, and the EBF was significantly decreased as compared with intact mucosa. Pretreatment with Ang-(1-7) of control rats without esophagitis induced increase in EBF by about 25% without any macroscopic changes in the esophageal mucosa or in the plasma level of cytokines. In animals with RE, pretreatment with Ang-(1-7) significantly reduced gross and histological esophageal mucosal injury and significantly increased EBF in comparison to vehicle-pretreated animals. The observed gross and histologic esophagoprotective effect of Ang-(1-7) was totally abolished by A779 so in rats with combined treatment of A779 with Ang-(1-7), the LI was identical with this observed in control RE and the EBF was decreased in these animals by about 39%. Inhibition of NO synthase by L-NNA significantly reduced the LI and the rise in EBF caused by Ang-(1-7). Similarly, the capsaicin denervation also significantly attenuated the vasodilatory and the esophagoprotective effects of Ang-(1-7). The expression of proinflammatory factors COX-2, Hif1α and IL-1β which was negligible in intact esophageal mucosa, was upregulated in esophageal mucosa of rats with RE. In contrast, the administration of Ang-(1-7) resulted in a downregulation of mRNA for COX-2, Hif1 and IL-1β in esophageal mucosa an this effect was abolished in A779-dependent manner. The Ang-(1-7) significantly decreased the RE-induced elevation of plasma levels of IL-1β and TNF-α, and this effect was also reversed by pretreatment with A779, and significantly attenuated by pretreatment with L-NNA and capsaicin-induced sensory denervation. The present study indicates that the protective effect of Ang-(1-7) observed in the esophageal mucosa during early acute stage of gastroesophageal reflux depends upon the enhancement of esophageal microcirculatory blood flow via the activation of Mas receptor possibly due to NO synthase/NO system activation, stimulation of sensory nerves, the inhibition of expression of pro-inflammatory factors including COX-2, Hif1α and IL-1β and release of proinflammatory cytokines IL-1β and TNF-α.