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Shock. 1999 Oct;12(4):262-7.

Effects of nitric oxide synthase inhibition on microvascular reactivity in septic mice.

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Section of Critical Care, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Chicago, IL 60612, USA.


Persistent vasodilation refractory to vasopressor agents is characteristic of septic shock. Induction of nitric oxide synthase (NOS) by sepsis-induced cytokines within the vasculature is one of the primary mediators of this refractory vasodilation. To evaluate the mechanism of vasodilation in sepsis, we used in vivo videomicroscopy to measure microvascular vasoconstrictive responses to topical suffusion of norepinephrine in mice made septic by cecal ligation and puncture, and contrasted the effects of topical superfusion of the nonselective NOS inhibitor N(G)-methyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) and the selective inducible NOS (iNOS) inhibitor S-methyl-isothiourea (SMT). Mice with sepsis were less sensitive to the vasoconstrictive effects of norepinephrine than controls (EC50, the concentration that produces half-maximal response 2.0+/-0.6 x 10(-6) M vs. 7.9+/-2.2 x 10(-8) M, P=0.01). Selective inhibition of inducible iNOS with topical SMT (100 microM) markedly increased catecholamine reactivity in mice with sepsis but did not affect reactivity in controls (P=0.0007 for sepsis, P=0.24 for controls). Nonselective NOS inhibition with topical L-NMMA produced a similar increase in catecholamine reactivity in mice with sepsis but not controls (P=0.001 for sepsis, P=0.56 for controls). When excess (1 mM) L-arginine, the substrate for NOS, was added to the superfusion buffer along with both SMT and L-NMMA, arteriolar responsiveness to norepinephrine was decreased to the original values. These experiments demonstrate that iNOS inhibition is as effective as nonselective NOS inhibition in reversing decreased catecholamine reactivity in sepsis. This suggests a crucial role for microvascular activation of iNOS in the pathophysiology of hypotension and decreased vasopressor responsiveness in sepsis.

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