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Pharmacol Ther. 2000 Jun;86(3):217-61.

Coronary microcirculation: physiology and pharmacology.

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Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine, 1-1 Seiryo-machi, Aoba-ku, 980-8574, Sendai, Japan.


Coronary microvessels play a pivotal role in determining the supply of oxygen and nutrients to the myocardium by regulating the coronary flow conductance and substance transport. Direct approaches analyzing the coronary microvessels have provided a large body of knowledge concerning the physiological and pharmacological characteristics of the coronary circulation, as has the rapid accumulation of biochemical findings about the substances that mediate vascular functions. Myogenic and flow-induced intrinsic vascular controls that determine basal tone have been observed in coronary microvessels in vitro. Coronary microvascular responses during metabolic stimulation, autoregulation, and reactive hyperemia have been analyzed in vivo, and are known to be largely mediated by metabolic factors, although the involvement of other factors should also be taken into account. The importance of ATP-sensitive K(+) channels in the metabolic control has been increasingly recognized. Furthermore, many neurohumoral mediators significantly affect coronary microvascular control in endothelium-dependent and -independent manners. The striking size-dependent heterogeneity of microvascular responses to all of these intrinsic, metabolic, and neurohumoral factors is orchestrated for optimal perfusion of the myocardium by synergistic and competitive interactions. The regulation of coronary microvascular permeability is another important factor for the nutrient supply and for edema formation. Analyses of collateral microvessels and subendocardial microvessels are important for understanding the pathophysiology of ischemic hearts and hypertrophied hearts. Studies of the microvascular responses to drugs and of the impairment of coronary microvessels in diseased conditions provide useful information for treating microvascular dysfunctions. In this article, the endogenous regulatory system and pharmacological responses of the coronary circulation are reviewed from the microvascular point of view.

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