The cardiovascular system is a highly complex, well organised system in which signal transduction plays critical physiological and pathophysiological roles. The cellular elements of the heart and vascular wall are equipped with an array of specific receptors and with complex intracellular machinery that facilitates and drives appropriate responses to extracellular stimuli. Understanding the mechanisms through which extracellular stimuli modify the functions of cells in the heart and vascular wall gives valuable insights into how perturbations of signalling systems can cause pathological situations. This knowledge will allow the identification of novel molecular targets for pharmacological intervention and will assist the future development of therapeutic strategies for managing cardiovascular disorders. This brief review will give a general overview of some major intracellular signalling systems operative in cells comprising the heart and vasculature, with particular emphasis on the pleiotropic roles of protein kinases as regulators of cell behaviour.
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