Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation




Pharmacology and Nutritional Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Lisa A. Cassis


Obesity is strongly associated with hypertension and cardiovascular diseases. An activated renin-angiotensin system (RAS) has long been suggested as a critical contributor to elevated blood pressure with obesity. Angiotensin II (AngII), the main effector of an activated RAS, can be catabolized by angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) to form angiotensin-(1-7) (Ang-(1-7)), which, acting through the mas receptor (MasR), has been shown to oppose the effects of an activated RAS. Therefore, further understanding of the mechanisms of this counter-regulatory arm, called the ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/MasR axis, may lead to new therapies for obesity-induced hypertension. Previously, we demonstrated that differences in the regulation of ACE2 in a tissue-specific manner contribute to sexual dimorphism of diet-induced obesity-hypertension in mice. Whereas male mice fed a high fat (HF) diet developed hypertension, HF-fed female mice were protected from obesity-hypertension, and this was associated with increased activity of ACE2 in adipose tissue of females. Both upregulation of adipose ACE2 and protection against obesity-hypertension were lost when females were ovariectomized (OVX). We hypothesized that estrogen-mediated increases in adipose ACE2 reduce the AngII/Ang-(1-7) peptide balance and protect females from obesity-hypertension. To test this hypothesis, we first determined if estrogen restores protection of Ovx female mice from obesity-hypertension, and therapeutically protects male mice from obesity-hypertension. We demonstrated that estrogen administration to Ovx HF-fed females activates adipose ACE2, reduces plasma Ang II concentrations, and decreases blood pressure in wildtype, but not of ACE2-deficient obese females. In contrast, estrogen administration to HF-fed male mice had no on the development of obesity-hypertension, regardless of genotype. These results demonstrate that estrogen protects female mice from obesity-hypertension through an ACE2-dependent mechanism. Next we defined the role of MasR deficiency on the development of obesity-hypertension in male and female mice. In HF-fed MasR-deficient female mice, diastolic blood pressure (DBP) was significantly elevated compared to LF-fed controls, suggesting that protection from obesity-hypertension was abolished by MasR deficiency. In contrast, HF-fed male mice with MasR deficiency exhibited reduced blood pressure compared to wildtype controls which was associated with reduced cardiac function. Overall, these studies indicate that the ACE2/Ang-(1-7)/MasR axis plays an important role in sexual dimorphism of obesity-hypertension, and in the regulation of cardiac function. Moreover, these studies suggest that the effects of this counter-regulatory arm of the RAS may be sex-specific.

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)