Objective: To examine the role of endogenous nitric oxide (NO) and endothelin-1 (ET-1) in the pathogenesis of persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) and to determine whether inhaled NO, currently under investigation as a new therapy for PPHN, affects plasma concentrations of these vasoactive mediators.
Methods: Circulating ET-1 and cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) concentrations were measured by radioimmunoassay in 15 healthy term newborn infants and 46 newborn infants with PPHN enrolled in a randomized, controlled trial of inhaled NO. These concentrations were followed up longitudinally and compared between the NO and the conventionally treated group.
Results: Concentrations of ET-1 were significantly higher and cGMP concentrations significantly lower in infants with PPHN compared with healthy newborn infants (median ET-1, 28 vs 11 pmol/L; p = 0.0001; median cGMP, 35 vs 61 pmol/ml; p = 0.0001, respectively). ET-1 concentrations showed an upward trend at 1 and 24 hours of treatment and a subsequent decline at recovery in both subgroups of patients, with the most pronounced decrease in the NO group. cGMP concentrations increased significantly only in the NO group, with a peak at 1 hour of treatment (median, 61 pmol/ml). As the dose of NO decreased, cGMP concentrations declined. In contrast, conventionally treated infants manifested no change in cGMP concentrations from baseline until recovery, when a significant decrease was noted (median decrease of 13 pmol/ml; p = 0.002). We did not find a significant difference between ET-1 and cGMP concentrations in infants who required extracorporeal membrane oxygenation compared with those who did not.
Conclusions: PPHN is associated with increased ET-1 and decreased cGMP plasma concentrations, which may contribute to the pathogenesis of the disease. Inhaled NO appears to modulate these mediators during the disease process, suggesting an interaction between ET-1 and NO in vivo.