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Clin Exp Pharmacol Physiol. 1991 Apr;18(4):245-54.

Use of nicotine, bradykinin and veratridine to elicit cardiovascular chemoreflexes in unanaesthetized rabbits.

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Cardiovascular Research Laboratory, University of Melbourne Department of Surgery, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


1. We have characterized in unanaesthetized rabbits the reflex effects of injecting nicotine into the pericardial sac or left atrium on heart rate, arterial pressure, systemic vascular resistance and the amplitude and frequency of respiration. These effects were compared with those of atrial administration of nicotine and veratridine, and intrapericardial administration of veratridine and bradykinin. 2. Injection of nicotine (6.25-400 micrograms) into the pericardial sac caused dose-dependent falls of heart rate and arterial pressure, and a brief period of hypopnoea. The fall in arterial pressure was mainly due to a fall in systemic vascular resistance. The threshold dose was 25 micrograms. Near maximal falls in heart rate (108 beats/min) and arterial pressure (47 mmHg) occurred at a dose of 200-400 micrograms. The latency between injection and the onset of bradycardia was 3.0 s. 3. The effects of intrapericardial nicotine on arterial pressure and respiration were antagonized in a dose-dependent fashion by intrapericardial mecamylamine (1-100 micrograms/kg) but were unaffected by intrapericardial hyoscine methylbromide (10 micrograms/kg) or vecuronium (1-10 micrograms/kg). The haemodynamic and respiratory effects were abolished by intrapericardial procaine. The haemodynamic effects were increased, though not significantly, by sino-aortic baroreceptor denervation. In decerebrate, artificially ventilated rabbits, bilateral cervical vagotomy converted the hypotensive and bradycardic response into a slowly developing tachycardia without change in arterial pressure. 4. Left atrial injection of nicotine (6.25-100 micrograms) caused bradycardia, a rise in arterial pressure, and prolonged hyperpnoea preceded by transient hypopnoea. After sino-aortic barodenervation it caused profound falls in heart rate and arterial pressure and transient hypopnoea, which were abolished by intrapericardial procaine. 5. Intrapericardial injection of veratridine (50-100 micrograms) had no consistent effect under control conditions. After sino-aortic barodenervation it caused falls in heart rate and arterial pressure which were abolished by intrapericardial procaine. Left atrial injection of veratridine caused highly variable haemodynamic effects. 6. Intrapericardial bradykinin (2.5-25 micrograms) caused rises in both arterial pressure and heart rate. These were abolished by intrapericardial procaine. 7. We conclude that when nicotine is injected into the pericardial sac of conscious rabbits the reflex haemodynamic and respiratory effects are due to the selective activation of neuronal-type nicotinic cholinoceptors on vagal afferents that originate in the epicardium. The reflex effects of left atrial nicotine are probably due to the excitation of a combination of carotid chemoreceptors and cardiac receptors. 8. The effects of nicotine, veratridine and bradykinin that we observed in conscious rabbits were profoundly different from those reported in anaesthetized rabbits.

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