Enhancement of Endothelial KCa Channel Activity as a Novel Strategy to Oppose Atherosclerosis

O. D. Vera, Ramesh C. Mishra, Darrell D. Belke, Liam Hamm, Heike Wulff, Andrew P. Braun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Atherosclerosis represents a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and is associated with endothelial dysfunction (ED), which facilitates fatty plaque formation, impairs blood flow and increases arterial stiffness. A hallmark feature of ED is decreased bioavailability of nitric oxide (NO). We have previously reported that pharmacological activation of endothelial Ca2+ -activated K+ channels (KCa2.3 and KCa3.1) can oppose ED by enhancing endothelium-dependent vasodilation. We hypothesized that improving endothelial function will mitigate the development and/or severity of atherosclerosis in Apoe knockout (Apoe-/- ) mice. Administration of the KCa channel activator SKA-31 was utilized to improve endothelial function in vivo. Experimentally, male, 8-week old Apoe-/- mice on a regular chow diet were administered one of three daily treatments for 16 weeks: SKA-31 (10 mg/kg), the KCa3.1 channel blocker senicapoc (40 mg/kg), or drug vehicle alone. Pharmacological inhibition of KCa3.1 channels is reported to reduce atherosclerosis in Apoe-/- mice and was utilized as a benchmark. Drugs were formulated in miglyol and condensed milk, which was readily ingested by the mice. Cardiac function and arterial pulse wave velocity (PWV) were assessed by echocardiography under isoflurane anesthesia. Atherosclerotic lesions in the aorta were visualized by Oil-Red-O staining and select tissue histology was carried out using H&E staining. Abdominal aortic contractility and relaxation were measured by wire myography in drug-treated Apoe-/- mice and age/sex-matched wild-type C57/BL6 mice. At the end of drug treatment, left ventricular (LV) ejection fraction, fractional shortening and LV posterior wall thickness were not different in Apoe-/- mice treated with either SKA-31 or senicapoc compared with vehicle. Measurements of aortic PWV showed no significant differences among the three groups, which indicated that neither drug treatment decreased aortic stiffness. Oil-Red-O staining of the thoracic aorta and aortic arch revealed fatty plaque formation in Apoe-/- mice (i.e. 10-12% of area) compared with WT controls (< 1%), however, neither SKA-31 nor senicapoc treatments reduced plaque formation vs. vehicle. Phenylephrine (PE)-evoked contraction of abdominal aortic rings appeared similar in WT and vehicle/drug treated Apoe-/- mice, whereas endothelium-dependent, acetylcholine-induced relaxation of PE-constricted aortic rings was enhanced in aortic rings from mice treated with SKA-31 and senicapoc vs. vehicle. Although relaxation to the smooth muscle vasodilator sodium nitroprusside was augmented in Apoe-/- mice compared with WT, this response was not altered by drug treatment. While both SKA-31 and senicapoc improved aortic endothelial function, neither drug decreased plaque formation or aortic stiffness, perhaps due to the later onset of these events in the progression of atherosclerotic pathology. We will investigate this likelihood by feeding Apoe-/- mice a high fat diet to accelerate the development of plaque formation and arterial stiffness to determine the effects of both drug treatments on these later stages of atherosclerosis.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


Dive into the research topics of 'Enhancement of Endothelial KCa Channel Activity as a Novel Strategy to Oppose Atherosclerosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this