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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2009 Oct;297(4):H1337-46. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00171.2009. Epub 2009 Aug 7.

Transfer of nitric oxide by blood from upstream to downstream resistance vessels causes microvascular dilation.

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Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Indiana University Medical School, Indianapolis, Indiana 46202, USA.


The discovery that hemoglobin, albumin, and glutathione carry and release nitric oxide (NO) may have consequences for movement of NO by blood within microvessels. We hypothesize that NO in plasma or bound to proteins likely survives to downstream locations. To confirm this hypothesis, there must be a finite NO concentration ([NO]) in arteriolar blood, and upstream resistance vessels must be able to increase the vessel wall [NO] of downstream arterioles. Arteriolar blood NO was measured with NO-sensitive microelectrodes, and vessel wall [NO] was consistently 25-40% higher than blood [NO]. Localized suppression of NO production in large arterioles over 500-1,000 microm with L-nitroarginine reduced the [NO] approximately 40%, indicating as much as 60% of the wall NO was from blood transfer. Flow in mesenteric arteries was elevated by occlusion of adjacent arteries to induce a flow-mediated increase in arterial NO production. Both arterial wall and downstream arteriolar [NO] increased and the arterioles dilated as the blood [NO] was increased. To study receptor-mediated NO generation, bradykinin was locally applied to upstream large arterioles and NO measured there and in downstream arterioles. At both sites, [NO] increased and both sets of vessels dilated. When isoproterenol was applied to the upstream vessels, they dilated, but neither the [NO] or diameter downstream arterioles increased. These observations indicate that NO can move in blood from upstream to downstream resistance vessels. This mechanism allows larger vessels that generate large [NO] to influence vascular tone in downstream vessels in response to both flow and receptor stimuli.

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