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Jpn J Pharmacol. 2001 Mar;85(3):299-305.

Comparative study on the vasorelaxant effects of three harmala alkaloids in vitro.

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Department and Institute of Pharmacology, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan.


Three psychological active principles from the seeds of Peganum harmala L., harmine, harmaline and harmalol, showed vasorelaxant activities in isolated rat thoracic aorta preparations precontracted by phenylephrine or KCl with rank order of relaxation potency of harmine > harmaline > harmalol. The vasorelaxant effects of harmine and harmaline (but not harmalol) were attenuated by endothelium removal or pretreatment with a nitric oxide (NO) synthase Nomega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester. In cultured rat aortic endothelial cells, harmine and harmaline (but not harmalol) increased NO release, which was dependent on the presence of external Ca2+. In endothelium-denuded preparations, pretreatment of harmine, harmaline or harmalol (3-30 microM) inhibited phenylephrine-induced contractions in a non-competitive manner. Receptor binding assays indicated that all 3 compounds interacted with cardiac alpha1-adrenoceptors with comparable affinities (Ki value around 31 - 36 microM), but only harmine weakly interacted with the cardiac 1,4-dihydropyridine binding site of L-type Ca2+ channels (Ki value of 408 microM). Therefore, the present results suggested that the vasorelaxant effects of harmine and harmaline are attributed to their actions on the endothelial cells to release NO and on the vascular smooth muscles to inhibit the contractions induced by the activation of receptor-linked and voltage-dependent Ca2+ channels. The vasorelaxant effect of harmalol was not endothelium-dependent.

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