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Background Recombinant human relaxin-2 (serelaxin), which has organ-protective actions mediated via its cognate G protein?coupled receptor relaxin family peptide receptor 1 (RXFP1), has emerged as a potential agent to treat fibrosis. Studies have shown that serelaxin requires the angiotensin II (AngII) type 2 receptor (AT(2)R) to ameliorate renal fibrogenesis in vitro and in vivo. Whether its antifibrotic actions are affected by modulation of the AngII type 1 receptor (AT(1)R), which is expressed on myofibroblasts along with RXFP1 and AT(2)R, is unknown.
Methods We examined the signal transduction mechanisms of serelaxin when applied to primary rat renal and human cardiac myofibroblasts in vitro, and in three models of renal- or cardiomyopathy-induced fibrosis in vivo.
Results The AT(1)R blockers irbesartan and candesartan abrogated antifibrotic signal transduction of serelaxin via RXFP1 in vitro and in vivo. Candesartan also ameliorated serelaxin?s antifibrotic actions in the left ventricle of mice with cardiomyopathy, indicating that candesartan?s inhibitory effects were not confined to the kidney. We also demonstrated in a transfected cell system that serelaxin did not directly bind to AT(1)Rs but that constitutive AT(1)R-RXFP1 interactions could form. To potentially explain these findings, we also demonstrated that renal and cardiac myofibroblasts expressed all three receptors and that antagonists acting at each receptor directly or allosterically blocked the antifibrotic effects of either serelaxin or an AT(2)R agonist (compound 21).
Conclusions These findings have significant implications for the concomitant use of RXFP1 or AT(2)R agonists with AT(1)R blockers, and suggest that functional interactions between the three receptors on myofibroblasts may represent new targets for controlling fibrosis progression.