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To determine the effects of age and dual endothelin (ET)A/ETB receptor antagonism (bosentan) on aortic matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) abundance and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP) expression in normotensive Wistar–Kyoto (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR).Male SHR and control WKY rats were randomly assigned to receive placebo or bosentan (100 mg/kg per day) for 3 months. Animals were killed under terminal anaesthesia at either 20 weeks (adult) or 17–20 months (senescent). Aortic gelatinase activity was determined by zymography, whereas MT-1 MMP and TIMP-1 expression were assessed by immunoblotting.In WKY rats, aortic MMP-2 but not proMMP-2 activity was 3.6-fold higher (P < 0.02) in the senescent compared with the adult group. TIMP-1 (twofold) and MT-1 MMP (3.8-fold) expression increased (P < 0.05) with age in the WKY groups. Short-term hypertension (adult SHR versus adult WKY) increased MMP-2 to 74.7 ± 14.1 from 18.9 ± 3.5 arbitrary units (AU) (P = 0.0012), but did not alter proMMP-2 activity. This increased further on progression to chronic hypertension (117.4 ± 12.2 versus 74.7 ± 14.1 AU; P < 0.02). Bosentan decreased MMP-2 (78.9 ± 3.8 versus 117.4 ± 12.2 AU; P = 0.014) and proMMP-2 activity (P < 0.006) in the senescent SHR group.Ageing and the development/progression of hypertension are associated with increased MMP-2 activity in the aorta, which is consistent with ongoing remodelling of the vasculature. However, the underlying mechanisms regulating MMP-2 abundance in ageing and hypertension appear to be divergent, as MT-1 MMP expression is differentially altered. Dual ETA/ETB receptor antagonism did not alter the age-dependent increase in aortic MMP activity in normotensive rats. However, bosentan decreased pro and active MMP-2 activity in senescent SHR rats, indicating that ET modulates late events in vascular remodelling in hypertension.