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Circulation. 2001 Jul 24;104(4):424-8.

Sildenafil inhibits hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension.

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  • 1Section on Clinical Pharmacology, Imperial College School of Medicine, Hammersmith Hospital, London, UK.



This study investigated the effect of the phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitor sildenafil on the pulmonary vascular response to hypoxia in humans and mice.


In a randomized, double-blind study, sildenafil 100 mg or placebo was given orally to 10 healthy volunteers 1 hour before breathing 11% O(2) for 30 minutes. Pulmonary artery pressure (PAP) was measured with an indwelling right heart catheter. The acute 56% increase in mean PAP produced by hypoxia during placebo treatment (mean PAP [mean+/-SD mm Hg]: normoxia 16.0+/-2.1 versus hypoxia 25.0+/-4.8) was almost abolished by sildenafil (normoxia 16.0+/-2.1 versus hypoxia 18.0+/-3.6), with no significant effect on systemic blood pressure. In the isolated perfused lung of wild-type and endothelial nitric oxide synthase (eNOS)-deficient mice, sildenafil markedly blunted acute hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction. Wild-type mice dosed orally with the drug (25 mg. kg(-1). d(-1)) throughout 3 weeks of exposure to hypoxia (10% O(2)) exhibited a significant reduction in right ventricular systolic pressure (placebo versus sildenafil: 43.3+/-9.9 versus 29.9+/-9.7 mm Hg, P<0.05) coupled with a small reduction in right ventricular hypertrophy and inhibition of pulmonary vascular remodeling. In eNOS mutant mice, sildenafil attenuated the increase in right ventricular systolic pressure but without a significant effect on right ventricular hypertrophy or vascular remodeling.


Sildenafil attenuates hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension in humans and mice and offers a novel approach to the treatment of this condition. The eNOS-NO-cGMP pathway contributes to the response to sildenafil, but other biochemical sources of cGMP also play a role. Sildenafil has beneficial pulmonary hemodynamic effects even when eNOS activity is impaired.

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