Purpose: To explore the effects of brief intravenous (IV) infusion of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) on vascular albumin permeability, blood flow, and vascular conductance (blood flow normalized to arterial blood pressure) in ocular tissues and brain and to assess the role of nitric oxide in mediating these changes.
Methods: A quantitative, double-tracer, radiolabeled albumin permeation method was combined with radiolabeled microspheres for assessment of changes in vascular permeability and blood flow, respectively, induced in ocular tissues by IV infusion of recombinant human VEGF165 for 20 minutes (80-450 picomoles/kg body weight). An inhibitor of nitric oxide synthase (NOS), NG-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA; 50 micromoles/kg body weight infused simultaneously with VEGF), was used to explore the role of nitric oxide in mediating the vascular changes induced by VEGF.
Results: Infusion of VEGF165 in thiopental-anesthetized rats dose-dependently increased 125I albumin permeation in the retina, anterior uvea, and choroid/sclera and in brain, aorta, lung, kidney, small intestine, and peripheral nerve. Mean arterial blood pressure, cardiac output, and stroke volume were decreased only at the highest dose of VEGF, whereas heart rate remained unchanged. Blood flow was increased in the anterior uvea, and vascular conductance was increased in retina, anterior uvea, choroid/sclera, and brain at the highest dose of VEGF. The NOS inhibitor, L-NMMA, blocked VEGF-induced vascular hyperpermeability in all ocular and nonocular tissues, prevented the increase in vascular conductance in all ocular tissues, and blocked the decrease in mean arterial blood pressure, cardiac output, and stroke volume. Infusion of L-NMMA alone decreased vascular conductance in choroid/sclera and kidney, slightly increased mean arterial blood pressure, and in general, did not affect 125I-albumin permeation. (L-NMMA slightly decreased albumin permeation in the retina and increased it in the brain.)
Conclusions: Intravenous infusion of VEGF can acutely impair endothelial cell barrier functional integrity and relax resistance arterioles in ocular tissues and brain through a mechanism involving activation of NOS.