Salt controls endothelial and vascular phenotype

Kristina Kusche-Vihrog*, Boris Schmitz, Eva Brand

*Corresponding author for this work
29 Citations (Scopus)


High salt (NaCl) intake promotes the development of vascular diseases independent of a rise in blood pressure, whereas reduction of salt consumption has beneficial effects for the arterial system. This article summarizes our current understanding of the molecular mechanisms of high salt-induced alterations of the endothelial phenotype, the impact of the individual endothelial genotype, and the overall vascular phenotype. We focus on the endothelial Na+ channel (EnNaC)-controlled nanomechanical properties of the endothelium, since high Na+ leads to an EnNaC-induced Na+-influx and subsequent stiffening of endothelial cells. The mechanical stiffness of the endothelial cell (i.e., the endothelial phenotype) plays a crucial role as it controls the production of the endothelium-derived vasodilator nitric oxide (NO) which directly affects the tone of the vascular smooth muscle cells. In contrast to soft endothelial cells, stiff endothelial cells release reduced amounts of NO, the hallmark of endothelial dysfunction. This endothelium-born process is followed by the development of arterial stiffness (i.e., the vascular phenotype), predicting the development of vascular end-organ damage such as myocardial infarction, stroke, and renal impairment. In this context, we outline the potential clinical implication of direct (amiloride) and indirect (spironolactone) EnNaC inhibition on vascular function. However, interindividual differences exist in the response to high salt intake which involves different endothelial genotypes. Thus, selected genes and genetic variants contributing to the development of salt-induced endothelial dysfunction and hypertension are discussed. In this review, we focus on the role of salt in endothelial and vascular (dys)function and the link between salt-induced changes of the endothelial and vascular phenotype and its clinical implications.

Original languageEnglish
JournalPflugers Archiv European Journal of Physiology
Issue number3
Pages (from-to)499-512
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 12.02.2015

Research Areas and Centers

  • Academic Focus: Center for Brain, Behavior and Metabolism (CBBM)


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