We examined the ability of the new non-peptide angiotensin II receptor antagonist irbesartan to inhibit AT1 receptors in vivo in the rat kidney following oral administration, compared with the prototype drug losartan. Male Sprague–Dawley rats (250–300 g) were gavaged with either irbesartan or losartan at doses of 1, 3, 10, 30 or 100 mg/kg, or with corresponding vehicle. Rats were killed at 0, 1, 2, 8, or 24 h after drug administration, trunk blood was collected and the kidneys were removed. The effects of irbesartan and losartan on angiotensin II receptor binding were determined by quantitative in vitro autoradiography using the specific radioligand 125I-[Sar1,Ile8]angiotensin II. High levels of angiotensin II receptor binding in the rat kidney were demonstrated in the glomeruli and inner stripe of the outer medulla, which was attributed to AT1 receptors. At 1 h after dosing, irbesartan (1–100 mg/kg) and losartan (1–30 mg/kg) significantly inhibited AT1 receptor binding in all anatomical areas of the kidney, in a dose-dependent manner, with a maximal effect at 100 mg/kg and 30 mg/kg respectively. For a 10 mg/kg dose, inhibition of AT1 receptor binding was maximal around 1–2 h after oral administration of losartan, whereas maximal binding occurred between 2 and 8 h for irbesartan; both drugs produced persistent tissue blockade at 24h. In radioligand binding studies, irbesartan, losartan and EXP3174 (1×10-10 to 1×10-5 M) displaced 125I-[Sar1,Ile8]angiotensin II binding from renal AT1 receptors in a concentration-dependent manner, with a rank order of potency of irbesartan > EXP3174 > losartan. The concentration required to displace 50% of radioligand binding (IC50) by irbesartan, EXP3174 and losartan was 1.00±0.2 nM, 3.5±0.4 nM and 8.9±1.1 nM respectively. In conclusion, the findings of the present study suggest that irbesartan and losartan produce effective and sustained inhibition of AT1 receptors in vivo in the kidney following oral administration. However, irbesartan appears less potent, with respect to dosage, than losartan in vivo, despite having a higher affinity for AT1 receptors in vitro. The reason for this apparent discrepancy is unclear, but it may reflect the slower onset of action of irbesartan and its rate of tissue accessibility. Inhibition of angiotensin II receptors in target tissues such as the kidney may represent an important action of AT1 receptor antagonists, which may contribute to the beneficial effects of these agents in the clinical setting.

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