Objective: Pulmonary endothelial dysfunction is intertwined with the development and progression of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH). Pulmonary endothelium is an active metabolic tissue in healthy human subjects. This study was undertaken to determine the effects of PAH on pulmonary endothelial angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) activity and to identify differences between common PAH types, i.e., PAH related to connective tissue disease (PAH-CTD) versus idiopathic PAH (IPAH).
Methods: Nineteen patients with PAH-CTD, 25 patients with IPAH, and 23 control subjects were evaluated. The single-pass transpulmonary percent metabolism (%M) and hydrolysis (both reflecting enzyme activity per capillary) of an ACE synthetic substrate were determined. In addition, the calculated functional capillary surface area (FCSA), normalized to body surface area (BSA), was determined.
Results: The %M values in patients with PAH-CTD (mean+/-SEM 53.6+/-3.6%) were significantly reduced compared with those in control subjects (P<0.01) and those in patients with IPAH (P<0.03), but were similar between the IPAH and control groups (mean+/-SEM 66.2+/-3.6% and 74.7+/-2.7%, respectively). Substrate hydrolysis was also significantly reduced in patients with PAH-CTD. The FCSA/BSA was significantly reduced in patients with PAH-CTD (mean+/-SEM 1,068+/-118 ml/minute/m2) and in patients with IPAH (1,443+/-186 ml/minute/m2) compared with that in controls (2,948+/-245 ml/minute/m2; P<0.01 for both). At a given cardiac index, the FCSA/BSA tended to be lower in the PAH-CTD group than in the IPAH group. Moreover, unlike in IPAH, a linear relationship between the FCSA/BSA and the diffusing capacity for carbon monoxide (DLCO) was observed in PAH-CTD (r=0.54, P<0.03).
Conclusion: The metabolically functional pulmonary capillary bed appears to be reduced to an equal extent in PAH-CTD and IPAH. However, %M and hydrolysis appear to be reduced in PAH-CTD but not in IPAH, reflecting relatively diminished ACE activity on the pulmonary capillary endothelial cells of patients with PAH-CTD, and showing that pulmonary endothelial metabolic function differs between PAH types. This study also provides the first functional evidence that a reduced DLCO value in patients with PAH-CTD is related to the degree of FCSA loss.