Background. The renin-angiotensin system (RAS) functions as both a circulating endocrine system and a tissue paracrine/autocrine system. As a circulating peptide, angiotensin II (Ang II) plays a prominent role in blood-pressure control and body fluid and electrolyte balance by acting on the AT1 receptor in the brain and peripheral tissues. As a paracrine/autocrine peptide, locally formed Ang II also plays additional roles in tissues involving the regulation of regional haemodynamics, cell growth and remodelling, and neurotransmitter release. Evidence is emerging that Ang II is not the only active peptide of the RAS, and other Ang II fragments may also have important biological activities. Objectives. To provide a morphological basis for understanding novel actions of angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE), Ang II and related peptides in tissues, this article will review the localization of ACE and AT1, AT2 and AT4 receptors in the central nervous system, blood vessels and kidney. Results and conclusion. Autoradiographic mapping of the major components of the RAS has proved a valuable strategy to reveal, or suggest, cellular sites of novel actions for Ang II and related peptides in tissues. First, colocalization of ACE and AT1 receptors in the substantia nigra, the caudate nucleus and putamen of human and rat brain, which contain the dopamine-synthesizing neurons, suggests that the central RAS may be important in modulating central dopamine release. Secondly, the distribution of AT4 receptors with a striking association with cholinergic neurons, motor and sensory nuclei in the brain reveals that Ang IV may modulate central motor and sensory activities and memory. Thirdly, the occurrence of high levels of ACE and AT1 and/or AT2 receptors in the adventitia of blood vessels suggests important paracrine roles of the vascular RAS. Finally, the identification of abundant AT1 receptor and elucidation of its roles in the renomedullary interstitial cells of the kidney may provide a new impetus to study further the role of Ang II in the regulation of renal medullary function and blood pressure. Overall, circulating and locally produced Ang II and related peptides may exert a remarkable range of actions in the brain, kidney and cardiovascular system through multiple angiotensin receptors.
- Angiotensin II
- Angiotensin IV
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme
- AT receptor