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The clinical impact of cardiovascular disease cannot be underestimated. Equally, the importance of cost-effective management of cardiac failure is a pressing issue in the face of an ageing population and the increasing incidence of metabolic disorders worldwide. Targeting the mineralocorticoid receptor (MR) offers one approach for the treatment of heart failure with current strategies for novel MR therapeutics focusing on harnessing their cardio-protective benefits, but limiting the side effects of existing agents. It is now well accepted that activation of the MR in the cardiovascular system promotes tissue inflammation and fibrosis and has negative consequences for cardiac function and patient outcomes following cardiac events. Indeed, blockade of the MR using one of the two available antagonists (spironolactone and eplerenone) provides significant cardio-protective effects in the clinical and experimental setting. Although the pathways downstream of MR that translate receptor activation into tissue inflammation, fibrosis and dysfunction are still being elucidated, a series of recent studies using cell-selective MR (NR3C2)-null or MR-overexpressing mice have offered many new insights into the role of MR in cardiovascular disease and the control of blood pressure. Dissecting the cell-specific roles of MR signalling in the heart and vasculature to identify those pathways that are critical for MR-dependent responses is an important step towards achieving cardiac-selective therapeutics. The goal of this review is to discuss recent advances in this area that have emerged from the study of tissue-selective MR-null mice, and other targeted transgenic models and their relevance to clinical disease.
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