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J Physiol. 2012 Apr 15;590(8):1895-906. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.2011.227132. Epub 2012 Feb 20.

NHE1 knockout reduces blood pressure and arterial media/lumen ratio with no effect on resting pH(i) in the vascular wall.

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Department of Biomedicine and the Water and Salt Research Center, Aarhus University, Aarhus C, Denmark.


Acid–base transport in the vascular wall remains incompletely understood. Here, we investigated (a) implications of Na(+)/H(+) exchanger NHE1 knockout for vascular smooth muscle (VSMC) and endothelial cell (EC) pH(i) regulation, mesenteric artery morphology, vasomotor function and blood pressure regulation, and (b) consequences of sustained EC and VSMC acidification for vasomotor function. Na(+)/H(+) exchange activity was abolished in VSMCs and ECs from NHE1 knockout mice, but with CO(2)/HCO(3)(−) present, steady-state pH(i) was unaffected. Active tension was 30% smaller in arteries from NHE1 knockout than wild-type mice, and media thickness equally reduced. Number of VSMCs per unit artery length was unchanged whereas volume and cross-sectional area of individual VSMCs were reduced. Media stress, force production per VSMC cross-sectional area and VSMC Ca(2+) responses were unaffected. Blood pressure was 25 mmHg lower in NHE1 knockout than wild-type mice. Omission of CO(2)/HCO(3)(−) caused VSMCs and ECs to acidify substantially more in NHE1 knockout (0.3–0.6 pH-units) than wild-type (0.02–0.1 pH units) mice. Removing CO(2)/HCO(3)(−) inhibited acetylcholine-induced NO-mediated relaxations in arteries from NHE1 knockout but not wild-type mice. Without CO(2)/HCO(3)(−), effects of NO synthase and rho kinase inhibition on noradrenaline-induced contractions were smaller in arteries from NHE1 knockout than wild-type mice whereas the EC Ca(2+) response to acetylcholine, VSMC Ca(2+) response to noradrenaline and vasorelaxation to S-nitroso-N-acetylpenicillamine were unaffected. In conclusion, NHE1 mediates the Na(+)/H(+) exchange in ECs and VSMCs. Under physiological conditions, CO(2)/HCO(3)(−)-dependent mechanisms mask the pH(i)-regulatory function of NHE1. NHE1 knockout causes hypotrophy of VSMCs, reduced artery tension and lower blood pressure. At acidic pH(i), NO-mediated vasorelaxation and rho kinase-dependent VSMC Ca(2+) sensitivity are reduced.

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