Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) expression has been shown to be altered in renal tubules from diabetic mice. This study examined the localization of ACE and ACE2 within the glomerulus of kidneys from control (db/m) and diabetic (db/db) mice and the effect of chronic pharmacologic ACE2 inhibition. ACE2 co-localized with glomerular epithelial cell (podocyte) markers, and its localization within the podocyte was confirmed by immunogold labeling. ACE, by contrast, was seen only in glomerular endothelial cells. By immunohistochemistry, in glomeruli from db/db mice, strong ACE staining was found more frequently than in control mice (db/db 64.6 ± 6.3 versus db/m 17.8 ± 3.4%; P < 0.005). By contrast, strong ACE2 staining in glomeruli from diabetic mice was less frequently seen than in controls (db/db 4.3 ± 2.4 versus db/m 30.6 ± 13.6%; P < 0.05). For investigation of the significance of reduced glomerular ACE2 expression, db/db mice were treated for 16 wk with a specific ACE2 inhibitor (MLN-4760) alone or combined with telmisartan, a specific angiotensin II type 1 receptor blocker. At the end of the study, glomerular staining for fibronectin, an extracellular matrix protein, was increased in both db/db and db/m mice that were treated with MLN-4760. Urinary albumin excretion (UAE) increased significantly in MLN-4760-treated as compared with vehicle-treated db/db mice (743 ± 200 versus 247 ± 53.9 μg albumin/mg creatinine, respectively; P < 0.05), and the concomitant administration of telmisartan completely prevented the increase in UAE associated with the ACE2 inhibitor (161 ± 56; P < 0.05). It is concluded that ACE2 is localized in the podocyte and that in db/db mice glomerular expression of ACE2 is reduced whereas glomerular ACE expression is increased. The finding that chronic ACE2 inhibition increases UAE suggests that ACE2, likely by modulating the levels of glomerular angiotensin II via its degradation, may be a target for therapeutic interventions that aim to reduce albuminuria and glomerular injury.
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