Responses to reductive stress in the cardiovascular system

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There is a growing appreciation that reductive stress represents a disturbance in the redox state that is harmful to biological systems. On a cellular level, the presence of increased reducing equivalents and the lack of beneficial fluxes of reactive oxygen species can prevent growth factor-mediated signaling, promote mitochondrial dysfunction, increase apoptosis, and decrease cell survival. In this review, we highlight the importance of redox balance in maintaining cardiovascular homeostasis and consider the tenuous balance between oxidative and reductive stress. We explain the role of reductive stress in models of protein aggregation-induced cardiomyopathies, such as those caused by mutations in αB-crystallin. In addition, we discuss the role of NADPH oxidases in models of heart failure and ischemia-reperfusion to illustrate how oxidants may mediate the adaptive responses to injury. NADPH oxidase 4, a hydrogen peroxide generator, also has a major role in promoting vascular homeostasis through its regulation of vascular tone, angiogenic responses, and effects on atherogenesis. In contrast, the lack of antioxidant enzymes that reduce hydrogen peroxide, such as glutathione peroxidase 1, promotes vascular remodeling and is deleterious to endothelial function. Thus, we consider the role of oxidants as necessary signals to promote adaptive responses, such as the activation of Nrf2 and eNOS, and the stabilization of Hif1. In addition, we discuss the adaptive metabolic reprogramming in hypoxia that lead to a reductive state, and the subsequent cellular redistribution of reducing equivalents from NADH to other metabolites. Finally, we discuss the paradoxical ability of excess reducing equivalents to stimulate oxidative stress and promote injury.

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