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Pediatr Res. 1999 Mar;45(3):425-31.

In vivo evidence for a myogenic response in the fetal pulmonary circulation.

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  • 1Department of Neonatology, CHRU de Lille, France.


In vitro studies have suggested that pulmonary arteries can exhibit a myogenic response and that this myogenic response may be potent during the perinatal period. However, whether a myogenic response can be demonstrated to exist in vivo and the potential role of the myogenic response on the regulation of pulmonary blood flow during fetal life is unknown. We hypothesized that an acute increase in pulmonary artery pressure resulting from partial compression of the ductus arteriosus (DA) in the fetus may simultaneously activate two opposing responses: 1) blood flow-induced vasodilation (owing to shear stress); and 2) pressure-induced vasoconstriction (owing to the myogenic response). To test this hypothesis, we studied the hemodynamic response to partial DA compression with and without inhibition of shear stress-induced vasodilation by nitric oxide synthase blockade in chronically prepared late-gestation fetal lambs. Without inhibition of nitric oxide synthase, pulmonary vascular resistance progressively decreased by 39 +/- 5% during the DA compression period (p < 0.05). In contrast, DA compression after nitric oxide synthase inhibition caused left pulmonary artery blood flow to initially increase and then steadily decrease toward a plateau value, and caused pulmonary vascular resistance to progressively increase by 28 +/- 4% above baseline (p < 0.05). The plateau value of pulmonary vascular resistance was reached in less than 5 min after the onset of DA compression. Left pulmonary artery blood flow after 10 min of partial DA compression did not change with the rise in pulmonary artery pressure; plateau values of pulmonary vascular resistance increased linearly with the increase in pulmonary artery pressure. These results support the hypothesis that the perinatal lung circulation has a potent myogenic response, and that this response may be masked in vivo under physiologic conditions by nitric oxide synthase activity. We speculate that the myogenic response may become a predominant regulatory mechanism of pulmonary vascular resistance when endothelium-dependent vasoreactivity is impaired, such as in persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn.

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