Intermittent hypoxia in rats increases myogenic tone through loss of hydrogen sulfide activation of large-conductance Ca(2+)-activated potassium channels

Circ Res. 2011 Jun 10;108(12):1439-47. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.110.228999. Epub 2011 Apr 21.


Rationale: Myogenic tone, an important regulator of vascular resistance, is dependent on vascular smooth muscle (VSM) depolarization, can be modulated by endothelial factors, and is increased in several models of hypertension. Intermittent hypoxia (IH) elevates blood pressure and causes endothelial dysfunction. Hydrogen sulfide (H(2)S), a recently described endothelium-derived vasodilator, is produced by the enzyme cystathionine γ-lyase (CSE) and acts by hyperpolarizing VSM.

Objective: Determine whether IH decreases endothelial H(2)S production to increase myogenic tone in small mesenteric arteries.

Methods and results: Myogenic tone was greater in mesenteric arteries from IH than sham control rat arteries, and VSM membrane potential was depolarized in IH in comparison with sham arteries. Endothelium inactivation or scavenging of H(2)S enhanced myogenic tone in sham arteries to the level of IH. Inhibiting CSE also enhanced myogenic tone and depolarized VSM in sham but not IH arteries. Similar results were seen in cerebral arteries. Exogenous H(2)S dilated and hyperpolarized sham and IH arteries, and this dilation was blocked by iberiotoxin, paxilline, and KCl preconstriction but not glibenclamide or 3-isobutyl-1-methylxanthine. Iberiotoxin enhanced myogenic tone in both groups but more in sham than IH. CSE immunofluorescence was less in the endothelium of IH than in sham mesenteric arteries. Endogenouse H(2)S dilation was reduced in IH arteries.

Conclusions: IH appears to decrease endothelial CSE expression to reduce H(2)S production, depolarize VSM, and enhance myogenic tone. H(2)S dilatation and hyperpolarization of VSM in small mesenteric arteries requires BK(Ca) channels.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine
  • Air Pollutants / metabolism
  • Air Pollutants / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Blood Pressure / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism*
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Glyburide / pharmacology
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / metabolism
  • Hydrogen Sulfide / pharmacology*
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / pharmacology
  • Hypoxia / metabolism*
  • Hypoxia / physiopathology
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Mesenteric Arteries / metabolism*
  • Mesenteric Arteries / pathology
  • Paxillin / pharmacology
  • Peptides / pharmacology
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Vasodilation / drug effects*


  • Air Pollutants
  • Hypoglycemic Agents
  • Large-Conductance Calcium-Activated Potassium Channels
  • Paxillin
  • Peptides
  • Phosphodiesterase Inhibitors
  • iberiotoxin
  • Glyburide
  • 1-Methyl-3-isobutylxanthine
  • Hydrogen Sulfide