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Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2010 Jun;298(6):H2093-101. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.01045.2009. Epub 2010 Apr 9.

Sympathetic nerves and the endothelium influence the vasoconstrictor effect of low concentrations of ouabain in pressurized small arteries.

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Dept. of Physiology, Univ. of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore, MD 21201, USA.


We hypothesized that in salt-dependent forms of hypertension, endogenous ouabain acts on arterial smooth muscle to cause enhanced vasoconstriction. Here, we tested for the involvement of the arterial endothelium and perivascular sympathetic nerve terminals in ouabain-induced vasoconstriction. Segments of rat mesenteric or renal interlobar arteries were pressurized to 70 mmHg at 37 degrees C and exposed to ouabain (10(-11)-10(-7) M). Removal of the endothelium enhanced ouabain-induced vasoconstriction by as much as twofold (at an ouabain concentration of 10(-9) M). A component of the ouabain-induced vasoconstriction is due to the enhanced spontaneous release of norepinephrine (NE) from nerve terminals in the arterial wall. The alpha(1)-adrenoceptor blocker prazosin (10(-6) M) decreased ouabain-induced vasoconstrictions by as much as 50%. However, neither the contraction induced by sympathetic nerve activity (SNA) nor the NE release evoked by SNA (measured directly by carbon fiber amperometry) was increased by ouabain (<10(-7) M). Nevertheless, the converse case was true: after brief bursts of SNA, vasoconstrictor responses to ouabain were transiently increased (1.75-fold). This effect may be mediated by neuropeptide Y and Y(1) receptors on smooth muscle. In arteries lacking the endothelium and exposed to prazosin, ouabain (10(-11) M and greater) caused vasoconstriction, indicating a direct effect of very "low" concentrations of ouabain on arterial smooth muscle. In conclusion, in intact arteries, the endothelium opposes ouabain (10(-11)-10(-7)M)-induced vasoconstriction, which is caused by both enhanced spontaneous NE release and direct effects on smooth muscle. Ouabain (<10(-7)M) does not enhance SNA-mediated contractions, but SNA enhances ouabain-induced contractions. The effects of endogenous ouabain may be accentuated in forms of hypertension that involve sympathetic nerve hyperactivity and/or endothelial dysfunction.

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