Background and purpose: 5-HT is a vasoconstrictor exhibiting enhanced effects in systemic arteries from subjects with cardiovascular disease. The effect of endogenous 5-HT on arteries is controversial, because the concentration of free circulating 5-HT is low and a 5-hydroxytryptaminergic system has not been identified in peripheral arteries. We hypothesized that a local 5-hydroxytryptaminergic system (including 5-HT synthesis, metabolism, uptake and release) with physiological function exists in peripheral arteries.
Experimental approach: The presence of key components of a 5-hydroxytryptaminergic system in rat aorta and superior mesenteric artery was examined using western blot analyses, immunohistochemistry and immunocytochemistry. The function of the rate-limiting enzyme in 5-HT biosynthesis, tryptophan hydroxylase (TPH), and 5-HT transporter was tested by measuring enzyme activity and 5-HT uptake, respectively. Isometric contraction of arterial strips was used to demonstrate the function of released endogenous 5-HT in arterial tissues.
Key results: mRNA for TPH-1 was present in arteries, with low levels of TPH protein and TPH activity. Expression and function of MAO A (5-HT metabolizing enzyme) was supported by immunohistochemistry, western analyses and the elevation of concentrations of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HT metabolite) after exposure to exogenous 5-HT. The 5-HT transporter was localized to the plasma membrane of freshly isolated aortic smooth muscle cells. Peripheral arteries actively took up 5-HT in a time-dependent and 5-HT transporter-dependent manner. The 5-HT transporter substrate, (+)-fenfluramine, released endogenous 5-HT from peripheral arteries, which potentiated noradrenaline-induced arterial contraction.
Conclusions and implications: This study revealed the existence of a local 5-hydroxytryptaminergic system in peripheral arteries.