Previous physiological and biochemical studies suggest the existence of an endogenous renin-angiotensin system (RAS) in the kidney. However, these data cannot exclude the contribution of the circulating RAS. Proof of the local synthesis of RAS components in the kidney has been obtained recently through the use of molecular biological techniques. Using Northern blot analysis, we have demonstrated the intrarenal expression of renin, angiotensinogen, and angiotensin-converting enzyme messenger RNAs. Employing in situ hybridization histochemistry, we have localized the intrarenal tissue sites of renin and angiotensinogen messenger RNA synthesis. Renin gene expression was found in cells of the juxtaglomerular apparatus. Angiotensinogen mRNA was primarily produced in the proximal convoluted tubule with lesser amounts in glomerular tufts and vasculature. These findings led us to hypothesize that the proximal tubule is a major site of renal Ang II synthesis and that locally synthesized Ang II might directly modulate tubular function. Both genes are subject to feedback regulation. Our studies showed that Ang II exerted a stimulatory effect on angiotensinogen but a negative feedback effect on renin gene expression. Dietary NaCl restriction stimulated the expression of both genes, although the onset of renin gene activation required more prolonged sodium chloride restriction. Furthermore, our data indicated that the sodium cation, irrespective of the anion, was primarily important in regulating renal angiotensinogen mRNA levels. Our studies also showed altered intrarenal renin or angiotensinogen expressions in pathophysiological states, e.g. in experimental heart failure and the spontaneously hypertensive rat. Taken together, these data support the existence of a intrarenal RAS and suggest its potential roles in the regulation of renal function in health and disease.

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