Altered vascular reactivity in arterioles of chronic intermittent hypoxic rats

J Appl Physiol (1985). 2001 May;90(5):2007-13; discussion 2000. doi: 10.1152/jappl.2001.90.5.2007.


Recurrent episodic hypoxia (EH) is a feature of sleep apnea that may be responsible for some chronic cardiovascular sequelae such as systemic hypertension. Chronic EH (8 h/day for 35 days) causes elevation of diurnal resting (unstimulated) mean arterial blood pressure (MAP) in the rat. We used in vivo video microscopy to examine arteriolar reactivity in the cremaster muscle of male Sprague-Dawley rats subjected to 35 days of EH. Cremaster muscles of EH (n = 6) and control (n = 6) rats were exposed to varying doses of norepinephrine (NE) (10(-10) to 10(-5) M), ACh (10(-9) to 10(-5) M), and endothelin-1 (10(-12) to 10(-8) M). In a separate experiment, EH (n = 5) and control (n = 6) rats were given one dose of a nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor N(G)-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME; 10(-5) M). We also examined endothelial NOS mRNA from the kidneys of EH-stimulated and control (unstimulated) rats. Telemetry-monitored EH rats showed a 16-mmHg increase in MAP over 35 days, whereas control rats showed no change. The response to NE and endothelin-1 were similar for EH and control rats. ACh vasodilatation of arterioles in EH rats was significantly attenuated compared with that of controls. The degree of vasoconstriction in response to blockade of the nitric oxide system by L-NAME was significantly less (83% of baseline diameter with L-NAME) for arterioles of EH rats compared with that for controls (61% of baseline diameter), implying lower basal resting nitric oxide release in the EH rats. Whole kidney mRNA endothelial NOS levels were not different between groups. These data support the hypothesis that chronic elevation of blood pressure associated with EH involves increased peripheral resistance from decreased basal release or production of nitric oxide after 35 days of EH.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcholine / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Arterioles / drug effects
  • Arterioles / physiology
  • Arterioles / physiopathology*
  • Blood Pressure
  • Chronic Disease
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelin-1 / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Hypoxia / enzymology
  • Hypoxia / genetics
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology*
  • Kidney / enzymology
  • Male
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester / pharmacology
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / genetics
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Norepinephrine / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology
  • Telemetry
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Vasodilation / drug effects
  • Vasodilation / physiology


  • Endothelin-1
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase Type III
  • Nos3 protein, rat
  • Acetylcholine
  • NG-Nitroarginine Methyl Ester
  • Norepinephrine