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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009 Sep;297(3):H1140-50. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00436.2009. Epub 2009 Jul 17.

Low-dose ouabain constricts small arteries from ouabain-hypertensive rats: implications for sustained elevation of vascular resistance.

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Department of Physiology, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


Prolonged ouabain administration to normal rats causes sustained blood pressure (BP) elevation. This ouabain-induced hypertension (OH) has been attributed, in part, to the narrowing of third-order resistance arteries (approximately 320 microm internal diameter) as a result of collagen deposition in the artery media. Here we describe the structural and functional properties of fourth-order mesenteric small arteries from control and OH rats, including the effect of low-dose ouabain on myogenic tone in these arteries. Systolic BP in OH rats was 138 +/- 3 versus 124 +/- 4 mmHg in controls (P < 0.01). Pressurized (70 mmHg) control and OH arteries, with only a single layer of myocytes, both had approximately 165-microm internal diameters and approximately 20-microm wall thicknesses. Even after fixation, despite vasoconstriction, the diameters and wall thicknesses did not differ between control and OH fourth-order arteries, whereas in third-order arteries, both parameters were significantly smaller in OH than in controls. Myogenic reactivity was significantly augmented in OH fourth-order arteries. Nevertheless, phenylephrine- (1 microM) and high K(+)-induced vasoconstrictions and acetylcholine-induced vasodilation were comparable in control and OH arteries. Vasoconstrictions induced by 5 microM phenylephrine and by 10 mM caffeine in Ca(2+)-free media indicated that releasable sarcoplasmic reticulum Ca(2+) stores were normal in OH arteries. Importantly, 100 nM ouabain constricted both control and OH arteries by approximately 26 microm, indicating that this response was not downregulated in OH rats. This maximal ouabain-induced constriction corresponds to a approximately 90% increase in resistance to flow in these small arteries; thus ouabain at EC(50) of approximately 0.66 nM should raise resistance by approximately 35%. We conclude that dynamic constriction in response to circulating nanomolar ouabain in small arteries likely makes a major contribution to the increased vascular tone and BP in OH rats.

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