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Arterioscler Thromb. 1992 Mar;12(3):380-92.

Effect of induced hypercholesterolemia in rabbits on functional responses of isolated large proximal and small distal coronary arteries.

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Department of Pharmacology, University of Aarhus, Denmark.


We studied the effects of hypercholesterolemia on the vascular responses of proximal and distal parts of the rabbit coronary circulation in two consecutive studies. For 12 weeks, New Zealand White rabbits were fed a control diet or a diet with 1% cholesterol dissolved in either 3% coconut oil (study A) or ether (study B). Isolated proximal epicardial and distal intramyocardial coronary arteries from control and hypercholesterolemic rabbits were mounted for isometric tension recording in a double myograph. In study A for hypercholesterolemic rabbits (n = 12), the maximal relaxation and sensitivity to acetylcholine (ACh) were significantly decreased in proximal coronary segments contracted with 30 mmol/l potassium solution compared with segments from control rabbits (n = 13). The only change observed in distal coronary segments was a slight decrease in relaxation in response to low ACh concentrations (10(-8) and 3 x 10(-8) mol/l). However, in study B for proximal coronary and distal coronary segments from hypercholesterolemic rabbits (n = 13), the area under the ACh relaxation curve was increased compared with that of control rabbits (n = 12). Other parameters that were similarly affected in studies A and B include the following: 1) proximal coronary segments from hypercholesterolemic rabbits were more sensitive to sodium nitroprusside (SNP) than were those from control rabbits, but this was not true for distal coronary segments; 2) endothelial removal from arterial segments of control rabbits induced a significant increase in sensitivity and maximal relaxation to SNP of proximal coronary and distal coronary arteries; 3) in segments from hypercholesterolemic rabbits, the absence of endothelium did not alter the response of proximal coronary segments to SNP but did augment the relaxation of distal coronary segments to SNP; 4) the maximal response to 5-hydroxytryptamine in proximal coronary arteries from hypercholesterolemic rabbits was increased compared with those from control rabbits, whereas such changes were not observed in distal coronary arteries; and 5) histological examination showed the presence of atheromatous plaques in proximal coronary but not in distal coronary segments from treated animals. In conclusion, the present investigation demonstrates that induced hypercholesterolemia alters both the structure and function of proximal parts of the coronary circulation. In distal coronary arteries of hypercholesterolemic rabbits, the only change observed was an impaired endothelium-dependent cholinergic relaxation, but even this change appeared to be dependent on the manner in which cholesterol was added to the diet, although parallel studies are required to confirm this.

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