The mineralocorticoid aldosterone is produced in the adrenal zona glomerulosa (ZG) under the control of the renin–angiotensin II (AngII) system. Primary aldosteronism (PA) results from renin-independent production of aldosterone and is a common cause of hypertension. PA is caused by dysregulated localization of the enzyme aldosterone synthase (Cyp11b2), which is normally restricted to the ZG. Cyp11b2 transcription and aldosterone production are predominantly regulated by AngII activation of the Gq signaling pathway. Here, we report the generation of transgenic mice with Gq-coupled designer receptors exclusively activated by designer drugs (DREADDs) specifically in the adrenal cortex. We show that adrenal-wide ligand activation of Gq DREADD receptors triggered disorganization of adrenal functional zonation, with induction of Cyp11b2 in glucocorticoid-producing zona fasciculata cells. This result was consistent with increased renin-independent aldosterone production and hypertension. All parameters were reversible following termination of DREADD-mediated Gq signaling. These findings demonstrate that Gq signaling is sufficient for adrenocortical aldosterone production and implicate this pathway in the determination of zone-specific steroid production within the adrenal cortex. This transgenic mouse also provides an inducible and reversible model of hyperaldosteronism to investigate PA therapeutics and the mechanisms leading to the damaging effects of aldosterone on the cardiovascular system.
Matthew J. Taylor, Matthew R. Ullenbruch, Emily C. Frucci, Juilee Rege, Mark S. Ansorge, Celso E. Gomez-Sanchez, Salma Begum, Edward Laufer, David T. Breault, William E. Rainey