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Eur Heart J. 1989 Sep;10(9):847-57.

Endothelium-derived relaxing and contracting factors: potential role in coronary artery disease.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University Hospitals, Basel, Switzerland.


Endothelial cells can release substances which profoundly affect vascular tone and platelet function. The inhibitory substances include endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF or nitric oxide), prostacyclin and probably an endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor. Endothelin is a potent vasoconstrictor peptide released from endothelial cells. Under certain conditions, the endothelium can also produce angiotensin II, thromboxane A2 and a cyclooxygenase-dependent endothelium-derived contracting factor. In normal arteries, the effects of EDRF appear to dominate. In diseased arteries, the release and action of EDRF is impaired and that of endothelium-derived contracting factors is increased. Hyperlipidaemia, atherosclerosis and hypertension reduce endothelium-dependent relaxations. Hypoxia inhibits the release of EDRF and prolonged ischaemia severely impairs the response. Regenerated endothelium at sites of mechanical injury exhibits selective defects in response to aggregating platelets. The more effective release of EDRF in arterial compared with venous bypass grafts further suggests an involvement of the factor in preventing vascular occlusion. Therapeutic interventions with specific drugs and diets can augment the impaired endothelium-dependent relaxation of diseased arteries. Thus, functional changes of the endothelium in coronary artery disease may be an important factor in the development of vasospasm, ischaemia and thrombosis.

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