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J Appl Physiol (1985). 2011 Oct;111(4):980-8. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.01286.2010. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Intermittent hypoxia augments pulmonary vascular smooth muscle reactivity to NO: regulation by reactive oxygen species.

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Vascular Physiology Group, Department of Cell Biology and Physiology, University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center, Albuquerque, New Mexico 87131-0001, USA.


Intermittent hypoxia (IH) resulting from sleep apnea can lead to pulmonary hypertension. IH causes oxidative stress that may limit bioavailability of the endothelium-derived vasodilator nitric oxide (NO) and thus contribute to this hypertensive response. We therefore hypothesized that increased vascular superoxide anion (O(2)(-)) generation reduces NO-dependent pulmonary vasodilation following IH. To test this hypothesis, we examined effects of the O(2)(-) scavenger tiron on vasodilatory responses to the endothelium-dependent vasodilator ionomycin and the NO donor S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine in isolated lungs from hypocapnic-IH (H-IH; 3 min cycles of 5% O(2)/air flush, 7 h/day, 4 wk), eucapnic-IH (E-IH; cycles of 5% O(2), 5% CO(2)/air flush), and sham-treated (air/air cycled) rats. Next, we assessed effects of endogenous O(2)(-) on NO- and cGMP-dependent vasoreactivity and measured O(2)(-) levels using the fluorescent indicator dihydroethidium (DHE) in isolated, endothelium-disrupted small pulmonary arteries from each group. Both E-IH and H-IH augmented NO-dependent vasodilation; however, enhanced vascular smooth muscle (VSM) reactivity to NO following H-IH was masked by an effect of endogenous O(2)(-). Furthermore, H-IH and E-IH similarly increased VSM sensitivity to cGMP, but this response was independent of either O(2)(-) generation or altered arterial protein kinase G expression. Finally, both H-IH and E-IH increased arterial O(2)(-) levels, although this response was more pronounced following H-IH, and H-IH exposure resulted in greater protein tyrosine nitration indicative of increased NO scavenging by O(2)(-). We conclude that IH increases pulmonary VSM sensitivity to NO and cGMP. Furthermore, endogenous O(2)(-) limits NO-dependent vasodilation following H-IH through an apparent reduction in bioavailable NO.

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