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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2005 Aug;289(2):H813-22. Epub 2005 Mar 25.

Insulin resistance in spontaneously hypertensive rats is associated with endothelial dysfunction characterized by imbalance between NO and ET-1 production.

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  • 1Department of Pharmacology and Human Physiology, Univ. of Bari Medical School, Policlinico, Piazza G. Cesare 11, 70124 Bari, Italy.


Insulin stimulates production of NO in vascular endothelium via activation of phosphatidylinositol (PI) 3-kinase, Akt, and endothelial NO synthase. We hypothesized that insulin resistance may cause imbalance between endothelial vasodilators and vasoconstrictors (e.g., NO and ET-1), leading to hypertension. Twelve-week-old male spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) were hypertensive and insulin resistant compared with control Wistar-Kyoto (WKY) rats (systolic blood pressure 202 +/- 11 vs. 132 +/- 10 mmHg; fasting plasma insulin 5 +/- 1 vs. 0.9 +/- 0.1 ng/ml; P < 0.001). In WKY rats, insulin stimulated dose-dependent relaxation of mesenteric arteries precontracted with norepinephrine (NE) ex vivo. This depended on intact endothelium and was blocked by genistein, wortmannin, or N(omega)-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (inhibitors of tyrosine kinase, PI3-kinase, and NO synthases, respectively). Vasodilation in response to insulin (but not ACh) was impaired by 20% in SHR (vs. WKY, P < 0.005). Preincubation of arteries with insulin significantly reduced the contractile effect of NE by 20% in WKY but not SHR rats. In SHR, the effect of insulin to reduce NE-mediated vasoconstriction became evident when insulin pretreatment was accompanied by ET-1 receptor blockade (BQ-123, BQ-788). Similar results were observed during treatment with the MEK inhibitor PD-98059. In addition, insulin-stimulated secretion of ET-1 from primary endothelial cells was significantly reduced by pretreatment of cells with PD-98059 (but not wortmannin). We conclude that insulin resistance in SHR is accompanied by endothelial dysfunction in mesenteric vessels with impaired PI3-kinase-dependent NO production and enhanced MAPK-dependent ET-1 secretion. These results may reflect pathophysiology in other vascular beds that directly contribute to elevated peripheral vascular resistance and hypertension.

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