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Circulation. 2009 May 26;119(20):2656-62. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.108.822205. Epub 2009 May 11.

Effects of neuronal nitric oxide synthase on human coronary artery diameter and blood flow in vivo.

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King's College London British Heart Foundation Centre, Cardiovascular Division, Department of Cardiology, London, UK.



Nitric oxide (NO)-mediated local regulation of vascular tone is considered to involve endothelial NO synthase (eNOS). However, we recently reported that human forearm basal microvascular tone in vivo is tonically regulated by neuronal NO synthase (nNOS), in contrast to an acetylcholine-stimulated reduction in tone, which is eNOS dependent. Here, we investigated the in vivo effects of an nNOS-selective inhibitor, S-methyl-L-thiocitrulline (SMTC), on the human coronary circulation and on flow-mediated dilatation in the forearm.


In patients with angiographically normal coronary arteries, intracoronary infusion of SMTC (0.625 micromol/min) reduced basal coronary blood flow by 34.1+/-5.2% (n=10; P<0.01) and epicardial coronary diameter by 3.6+/-1.2% (P=0.02) but had no effect on increases in flow evoked by intracoronary substance P (20 pmol/min). The nonselective NOS inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (25 micromol/min) also reduced basal coronary flow (by 22.3+/-5.3%; n=8; P<0.01) but, in contrast to SMTC, inhibited substance P-induced increases in flow (P<0.01). In healthy volunteers, local infusion of SMTC (0.2 micromol/min) reduced radial artery blood flow by 36.0+/-6.4% (n=10; P=0.03) but did not affect flow-mediated dilatation (P=0.55). In contrast, N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (2 micromol/min) infusion reduced radial blood flow to a similar degree (by 39.7+/-11.8%; P=0.02) but also inhibited flow-mediated dilatation by approximately 80% (P<0.01).


These data indicate that local nNOS-derived NO regulates basal blood flow in the human coronary vascular bed, whereas substance P-stimulated vasodilatation is eNOS mediated. Thus, nNOS and eNOS have distinct local roles in the physiological regulation of human coronary vascular tone in vivo.

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