Endothelial dysfunction and stroke

J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2001 Nov:38 Suppl 2:S75-8. doi: 10.1097/00005344-200111002-00018.


Endothelial dysfunction, intended as the complex multifaced pathological product of different vasculotoxic agents or injuries, is viewed today as an attractant intermediate phenotype of cardiovascular diseases with usually long and unpredictable natural history. Furthermore, endothelial dysfunction may not only represent a vascular disease marker, but may actually play an important pathogenetic role, leading to progression of the disease and unfavourable outcomes. Among these vascular diseases, cerebrovascular accidents, namely stroke, clearly represent a paradigmatic example of the potential role of dysfunctional endothelium. In fact, in the world's growing elderly population few diseases are more dreaded than stroke. With an increasing incidence and mortality of 30%, stroke carries the threat of death or long-term disability and suffering. Endothelium produces nitric oxide (NO) under basal conditions and in response to a variety of vasoactive stimuli in large cerebral arteries and in the cerebral microcirculation. In addition to exerting a tonic dilator effect on the cerebral circulation, basal release of NO may protect cerebral endothelium by inhibiting aggregation of platelets and leukocytes. In this paper, we analyse current evidence suggesting that endothelial dysfunction can play a role in the pathogenesis of ischaemic stroke.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cyclic GMP / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / physiopathology*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological
  • Muscle Relaxation / physiology
  • Muscle, Smooth, Vascular / physiopathology
  • Nitric Oxide / metabolism
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase / metabolism
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases / metabolism
  • Stroke / metabolism
  • Stroke / physiopathology*


  • Nitric Oxide
  • Nitric Oxide Synthase
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Cyclic GMP
  • Calcium