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J Cell Biochem. 1991 May;46(1):27-36.

Endothelium-derived relaxing and contracting factors.

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Berlex Laboratories, Inc., Cedar Knolls, New Jersey 07927.


Key discoveries in the past decade revealed that the endothelium can modulate the tone of underlying vascular smooth muscle by the synthesis/release of potent vasorelaxant (endothelium-derived relaxing factors; EDRF) and vasoconstrictor substances (endothelium-derived contracting factors; EDCF). It has become evident that the synthesis and release of these substances contribute to the multitude of physiological functions the vascular endothelium performs. Accumulating evidence suggests that at least one of the EDRFs is identical with nitric oxide (NO) or a labile nitroso compound, which is produced from L-arginine by an NADPH- and Ca(2+)-dependent enzyme, arginine oxidase. The existence of more than one chemically distinct EDRF has been proposed, including an endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF). The target of EDRF (NO) is soluble guanylate cyclase (increase in cyclic GMP) while EDHF appears to activate a K(+)-channel in vascular smooth muscle. Recent data suggest that muscarinic receptor subtypes selectively mediate the release of EDRF(NO) (M2) and EDHF (M1). EDRF(NO) affects not only the underlying vascular smooth muscle, but also platelets, inhibiting their aggregation and adhesion to the endothelium. The antiaggregatory effect of EDRF is synergistic with prostacyclin, so their combined release may represent a physiological mechanism aimed at preventing thrombus formation. An additional proposed biological function of EDRF(NO) is cytoprotection by virtue of scavenging superoxide radicals. The endothelium can also mediate vasoconstriction by the release of a variety of endothelium-derived contracting factors (EDCF). Other than the unique peptide endothelin, the nature of EDCFs has not yet been firmly established. Autoregulation of cerebral and renal blood flow and hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction may represent the physiological role of endothelium-dependent vasoconstriction. Growing evidence indicates that the endothelium can serve as a unique mechanoreceptor, sensing and transducing physical stimuli (e.g., shear forces, pressure) into changes in vascular tone by the release of EDRFs or EDCFs. In physiological states, a delicate balance exists between endothelium-derived vasodilators and vasoconstrictors. Alterations in this balance can result in local (vasospasm) and generalized (hypertension) increase in vascular tone and also in facilitated thrombus formation. Endothelial dysfunction may also contribute to the pathophysiology of angiopathies associated with hypercholesterolemia and atherosclerosis.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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