Abnormalities in autonomic activity resulting in disturbances of the diurnal rhythm of many physiologic processes were recently revealed in hypertensive patients. These findings suggest deteriorations in the functioning of the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which is known to be the biological clock of mammals. To test this hypothesis, we carried out an immunocytochemical study of the SCN of primary hypertension patients who had died due to myocardial infarction or brain hemorrhage, and compared them with those of individuals with a normal blood pressure who had never had any autonomic disturbances and died from myocardial infarction after chest trauma or from hypothermia. We found that the staining for the three main neuronal populations of the SCN; i.e., vasopressin, vasoactive intestinal polypeptide, and neurotensin, reduced by more than 50% in the hypertensives compared with controls. The present data indicate a serious dysregulation of the biological clock in hypertensive patients. Such a disturbance may cause a harmful hemodynamic imbalance with a negative effect on circulation, especially in the morning, when the inactivity-activity balance changes. The difficulty in adjusting from inactivity to activity might be involved in the morning clustering of cardiovascular events.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.