Mechanisms and clinical implications of endothelium-dependent vasomotor dysfunction in coronary microvasculature

Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol. 2022 May 1;322(5):H819-H841. doi: 10.1152/ajpheart.00603.2021. Epub 2022 Mar 25.


Coronary microvascular disease (CMD), which affects the arterioles and capillary endothelium that regulate myocardial perfusion, is an increasingly recognized source of morbidity and mortality, particularly in the setting of metabolic syndrome. The coronary endothelium plays a pivotal role in maintaining homeostasis, though factors such as diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and obesity can contribute to endothelial injury and consequently arteriolar vasomotor dysfunction. These disturbances in the coronary microvasculature clinically manifest as diminished coronary flow reserve, which is a known independent risk factor for cardiac death, even in the absence of macrovascular atherosclerotic disease. Therefore, a growing body of literature has examined the molecular mechanisms by which coronary microvascular injury occurs at the level of the endothelium and the consequences on arteriolar vasomotor responses. This review will begin with an overview of normal coronary microvascular physiology, modalities of measuring coronary microvascular function, and clinical implications of CMD. These introductory topics will be followed by a discussion of recent advances in the understanding of the mechanisms by which inflammation, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, hyperlipidemia, hypertension, shear stress, endothelial cell senescence, and tissue ischemia dysregulate coronary endothelial homeostasis and arteriolar vasomotor function.

Keywords: coronary; endothelium; microcirculation; microvascular; vasomotor.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Coronary Circulation
  • Coronary Vessels*
  • Endothelium, Vascular
  • Humans
  • Hypertension*
  • Microcirculation / physiology
  • Microvessels