Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in the United States and aging is a major risk factor for CVD development. One of the major age-related arterial phenotypes thought to be responsible for the development of CVD in older adults is endothelial dysfunction. Endothelial function is modulated by traditional CVD risk factors in young adults, but advancing age is independently associated with the development of vascular endothelial dysfunction. This endothelial dysfunction results from a reduction in nitric oxide bioavailability downstream of endothelial oxidative stress and inflammation that can be further modulated by traditional CVD risk factors in older adults. Greater endothelial oxidative stress with aging is a result of augmented production from the intracellular enzymes NADPH oxidase and uncoupled eNOS, as well as from mitochondrial respiration in the absence of appropriate increases in antioxidant defenses as regulated by relevant transcription factors, such as FOXO. Interestingly, it appears that NFkB, a critical inflammatory transcription factor, is sensitive to this age-related endothelial redox change and its activation induces transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines that can further suppress endothelial function, thus creating a vicious feed-forward cycle. This review will discuss the two macro-mechanistic processes, oxidative stress and inflammation, that contribute to endothelial dysfunction with advancing age as well as the cellular and molecular events that lead to the vicious cycle of inflammation and oxidative stress in the aged endothelium. Other potential mediators of this pro-inflammatory endothelial phenotype are increases in immune or senescent cells in the vasculature. Of note, genomic instability, telomere dysfunction or DNA damage has been shown to trigger cell senescence via the p53/p21 pathway and result in increased inflammatory signaling in arteries from older adults. This review will discuss the current state of knowledge regarding the emerging concepts of senescence and genomic instability as mechanisms underlying oxidative stress and inflammation in the aged endothelium. Lastly, energy sensitive/stress resistance pathways (SIRT-1, AMPK, mTOR) are altered in endothelial cells and/or arteries with aging and these pathways may modulate endothelial function via key oxidative stress and inflammation-related transcription factors. This review will also discuss what is known about the role of "energy sensing" longevity pathways in modulating endothelial function with advancing age. With the growing population of older adults, elucidating the cellular and molecular mechanisms of endothelial dysfunction with age is critical to establishing appropriate and measured strategies to utilize pharmacological and lifestyle interventions aimed at alleviating CVD risk. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled "SI: CV Aging".