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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 2004 Sep;31(9):563-70.

Factors, fiction and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor.

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  • 1Division of Neuroscience, John Curtin School of Medical Research, Australian National University, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia.


1. The principal mediators of vascular tone are neural, endothelial and physical stimuli that result in the initiation of dilator and constrictor responses to facilitate the control of blood pressure. Two primary vasodilatory stimuli produced by the endothelium are nitric oxide (NO) and prostaglandins. An additional endothelium-dependent vasodilatory mechanism is characterized as the hyperpolarization-mediated relaxation that remains after the inhibition of the synthesis of NO and prostaglandins. This mechanism is due to the action of a so-called endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF) and is dependent on either the release of diffusible factor(s) and/or to a direct contact-mediated mechanism. 2. Most evidence supports the concept that 'EDHF' activity is dependent on contact-mediated mechanisms. This involves the transfer of an endothelium-derived electrical current, as an endothelium-derived hyperpolarization (EDH), through direct heterocellular coupling of endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells via myoendothelial gap junctions (MEGJ). However, there is a lack of consensus with regard to the nature and mechanism of action of EDHF/EDH (EDH(F)), which has been shown to vary within and between vascular beds, as well as among species, strains, sex and during development, ageing and disease. 3. In addition to actual heterogeneity in EDH(F), further heterogeneity has resulted from the less-than-optimal design, analysis and interpretation of data in some key papers in the EDHF literature; with such views being perpetuated in the subsequent literature. 4. The focus of the present brief review is to examine what factors are proposed as EDH(F) and highlight the correlative structural and functional studies from our laboratory that demonstrate an integral role for MEGJ in the conduction of EDH, which account for the heterogeneity in EDH(F), while incorporating the reported diffusible mechanisms in the regulation of this activity. Furthermore, in addition to the reported heterogeneity in the nature and mechanism of action of EDH(F), the contribution of experimental design and technique to this heterogeneity will be examined.

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