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J Clin Invest. 1996 Aug 15;98(4):899-905.

Effect of age on kinetics of nitric oxide release in rat aorta and pulmonary artery.

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Cardiovascular Research, Cardiology, University Hospital, Bern, Switzerland.


Aging is an important determinant of vascular disease. Endothelium-derived nitric oxide (NO) is protective as a vasodilator and inhibitor of platelet function. This study was designed to directly measure effects of prolonged aging on endotheliai NO release in isolated blood vessels and to delineate differences between the systemic and pulmonary circulation. Aortas and pulmonary arteries from 5-6-mo-old (young), 18-19-mo-old (middle-aged), and 32-33-mo-old (old) normotensive female rats were used. Blood pressure and plasma estradiol-17beta (E2) remained unchanged. In isolated blood vessels, NO release was induced by the receptor-independent agonist calcium ionophore A23187 (10 micromol/liter) and measured in situ on the endothelial surface of vessels using a porphyrinic microsensor. In vessels suspended in organ chambers isometric tension was recorded. In the aorta, the initial rate of NO release and peak NO concentration were reduced in middle-aged and old rats (P < 0.0006 vs. young rats, n = 6). Furthermore, endothelium-dependent relaxations to calcium ionophore and acetylcholine (both 10(-10) - 10(-5) mol/liter) were also reduced in aortas from old as compared with young rats (n = 6, P < 0.05). The initial rate of NO release and peak NO concentration significantly correlated with maximal relaxation to calcium ionophore A23187 (correlation coefficients r - 0.916, P < 0.0018 and r = 0.961, P < 0.0001, respectively, n = 7). In pulmonary arteries, however, the initial rate of NO release as well as peak NO concentration did not decrease with age (n = 6 for each age group, NS). In both blood vessels, the NO release was unaffected by superoxide dismutase in all age groups (n = 6, NS). Thus, aging specifically reduces initial rate and peak concentrations of endothelial NO release from aorta but not pulmonary artery indicating reduced NO production. As arterial pressure did not change with aging, the chronic exposure of the aorta to higher pressure and/or pulsatility than in the pulmonary artery may be the cause. This appears important as NO plays a protective role by preventing vasoconstriction, thrombosis and atherosclerosis.

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