Rac-1 as a new therapeutic target in cerebro-and cardio-vascular diseases

Albino Carrizzo, Maurizio Forte, Maria Lembo, Luigi Formisano, Annibale A. Puca, Carmine Vecchione

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Growing evidence indicates that overproduction of reactive oxygen species (ROS) plays a prominent role in the development of cardio-and cerebro-vascular diseases. Among the mechanisms identified to produce oxidative stress in the vascular wall, those mediated by membrane-bound NAD(P)H oxidases represent a major one. NAD(P)H oxidases are a family of enzymes that generate ROS both in phagocytic and non-phagocytic cell types. Vascular NAD(P)H oxidase contains the membrane-bound subunits Nox1, Nox2 (gp91phox), Nox4 and p22phox, the catalytic site of the oxidase, and the cytosolic components p47phox and p67phox. Rac1 (Ras-related C3 botulinum toxin substrate1) is a small GTPase essential for the assembly and activation of NADPH oxidase. Several molecular and cellular studies have reported the involvement of Rac1 in different cardiovascular pathologies, such as vascular smooth muscle proliferation, cardiomyocyte hypertrophy, endothelial cell shape change, atherosclerosis and endothelial dysfunction in hypertension. In addition, increased activation of NADPH oxidase by Rac1 has been reported in animals and humans after myocardial infarction and heart failure. The Rac1/NADPH pathway has also been found involved in different pathologies of the cerebral district, such as ischemic stroke, cognitive impairment, subaracnoid hemorrhage and neuronal oxidative damage typical of several neurodegenerative disorders. In addition, thrombotic events are an important step in the onset of cardio-and cerebrovascular diseases. Rac1 has been found involved also in platelet activation, inducing actin polymerization and lamellipodia formation, which are necessary steps for platelet aggregation. Taken together, the evidence candidates Rac1 as a new pharmacological target of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases. Although the involvement of Rac1 in the beneficial pleiotropic effects of drugs such as statins is well known, and the onset of numerous side effects has raised concern for the management of some patient groups. Interestingly, a novel selective Rac1 inhibitor, NSC23766, has recently been introduced; its use has been reported mainly in the oncology field. Future studies are needed to extend its application to cardio-and cerebro-vascular diseases, and translate its use to humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1231-1246
Number of pages16
JournalCurrent Drug Targets
Issue number13
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2014


  • Cardiovascular
  • Cerebrovascular
  • NADPH oxidase
  • NSC23766
  • Oxidative stress
  • Rac-1

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Drug Discovery
  • Pharmacology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Molecular Medicine
  • Medicine(all)


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