23 September 2008
The present studies were performed to determine if abnormal endothelium-dependent vascular relaxation in atherosclerosis is due to decreased production or release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) by atherosclerotic rabbit vessels or if atherosclerotic vessels are less sensitive to the relaxing effects of EDRF. EDRF release was quantified using two approaches, by the response of bioassay detector vessels and also by the activation of guanylate cyclase within cultured endothelial cells. Using these assays, atherosclerotic vessels were found to release significantly less EDRF than normal vessels in response to both receptor- and nonreceptor-mediated stimuli. Relaxations of normal and atherosclerotic vessels to luminally applied EDRF (derived from normal rabbit aortas stimulated by the calcium ionophore, A23187) and nitric oxide, a putative EDRF, were also studied. Atherosclerotic vessels were more sensitive to EDRF than normal vessels, and equally sensitive to nitric oxide. Additional studies performed in organ chambers failed to demonstrate augmented constriction of atherosclerotic vessels in response to acetylcholine in the presence or absence of methylene blue or LY83583, compounds which inhibit the effect of EDRF. We conclude that decreased EDRF release is the principal underlying mechanism responsible for abnormal endothelium-dependent vascular relaxation in atherosclerosis.