Atrial natriuretic peptide (ANP), via its vasodilating and diuretic effects, has an important physiological role in the maintenance of arterial blood pressure and volume. Its guanylyl cyclase-A (GC-A) receptor is highly expressed in vascular endothelium, but the functional relevance of this is controversial. To dissect the endothelium-mediated actions of ANP in vivo, we inactivated the GC-A gene selectively in endothelial cells by homologous loxP/Tie2-Cre-mediated recombination. Notably, despite full preservation of the direct vasodilating effects of ANP, mice with endothelium-restricted deletion of the GC-A gene (EC GC-A KO) exhibited significant arterial hypertension and cardiac hypertrophy. Echocardiographic and Doppler flow evaluations together with the Evan's blue dilution technique showed that the total plasma volume of EC GC-A KO mice was increased by 11-13%, even under conditions of normal dietary salt intake. Infusion of ANP caused immediate increases in hematocrit in control but not in EC GC-A KO mice, which indicated that ablation of endothelial GC-A completely prevented the acute contraction of intravascular volume produced by ANP. Furthermore, intravenous ANP acutely enhanced the rate of clearance of radio-iodinated albumin from the circulatory system in control but not in EC GC-A KO mice. We conclude that GC-A-mediated increases in endothelial permeability are critically involved in the hypovolemic, hypotensive actions of ANP.
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