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Hypertension. 2005 Apr;45(4):705-9. Epub 2005 Feb 28.

Augmented endothelin vasoconstriction in intermittent hypoxia-induced hypertension.

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Vascular Physiology Group, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of New Mexico, Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, NM 87131, USA.


We reported previously that simulating sleep apnea in rats by exposing them 7 hours per day to intermittent hypoxia/hypercapnia (IH) elevates plasma endothelin-1 and causes hypertension, which is reversed by an endothelin-1 antagonist. We hypothesized that in this model of sleep apnea-induced hypertension, vascular sensitivity to endothelin-1 is increased in combination with the elevated plasma endothelin-1 to cause the endothelin-1-dependent hypertension. In small mesenteric arteries with endothelial function disabled by passing air through the lumen, diameter and vessel wall [Ca2+] were recorded simultaneously. IH arteries demonstrated increased constrictor sensitivity to endothelin-1 (percentage max constriction 100+/-0% IH versus 80+/-10% Sham; P<0.05). This was accompanied by increased calcium sensitivity of IH arteries. In contrast, constrictor sensitivity and increases in vessel wall [Ca2+] to KCl and phenylephrine were not different between IH and Sham arteries. We have shown previously that endothelin-1 constriction in mesenteric arteries is mediated by endothelin A receptors. In the current study, the selective increase in endothelin-1 constriction in IH resistance arteries was accompanied by increased expression of endothelin A receptor expression (densitometry units 271+/-23 IH versus 158+/-25 Sham; P<0.05). Thus, IH hypertension appears to cause alterations in signaling components unique to endothelin-1 at the receptor level and in postreceptor signaling that increases calcium sensitivity during endothelin A activation. Future studies will determine the specific changes in vascular smooth muscle signaling in IH hypertension causing this augmented contractile phenotype.

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