Vascular dysfunction is a common finding in type 2 diabetes, although the response to urotensin II (UII), a potent vasoconstrictor peptide, remains unclear. We investigated whether a UII-induced contraction was increased in the aortas from type 2 diabetic Goto-Kakizaki (GK) rats at the chronic stage. At 36 or 37 weeks of age (older group), a UII-induced contraction was seen in GK rats and was reduced by a Rho kinase inhibitor or urotensin receptor (UT) antagonist, whereas UII failed to induce a contraction in aortas from age-matched Wistar rats. In UII-stimulated aortas, the expression of Rho kinases, Rho A, and phosphorylated myosin phosphatase target subunit 1 did not change between the two groups; however, phosphorylation of extracellular-regulated kinase 1/2 and p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) was greater in GK than in Wistar rats. Compared to intact aortas, UII-induced contractions were slightly, but not significantly, increased by endothelial denudation of the aortas of Wistar rats at 24 weeks of age. At 6 weeks of age (young group), the UII-induced contractions were seen in GK and Wistar groups. The total expression and the membrane-to-cytosol ratio of the UT protein slightly decreased in Wistar aortas with aging but not in GK aortas. These results demonstrate that the UII-induced contraction gradually decreased with aging in Wistar rats and was preserved in type 2 diabetes. Although alterations of UII-induced contractions during aging and type 2 diabetes may be associated with kinase activities (MAPKs or Rho kinase) or receptor profiles, further investigations are necessary to clarify the mechanisms.
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