1. In systemic hypertension the pulmonary vessels show an excessive tone at rest and hyper-react to adrenoceptor stimulation. Alterations in Ca2+ handling by the vascular smooth muscle cells seem to underlie these disorders. Alveolar hypoxia also constricts pulmonary arteries, increasing the intracellular Ca2+ availability for smooth muscle contraction. This suggests the hypothesis that hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction depends on similar biochemical disorders, and that the response to the hypoxic stimulus may be emphasized in high blood pressure.
2. In 21 hypertensive and 10 normotensive men, pulmonary arterial pressure and arteriolar resistance have been evaluated during air respiration and after 15 min of breathing 17, 15 and 12% oxygen in nitrogen. Curves relating changes in pulmonary arterial pressure and arteriolar resistance to the oxygen content of inspired gas had a similar configuration in the two populations, but in hypertension were steeper and significantly shifted to the left of those in normotension, reflecting a lower threshold and an enhanced vasoconstrictor reactivity.
3. This pattern was not related to differences in severity of the hypoxic stimulus, degree of hypocapnia and respiratory alkalosis induced by hypoxia, and plasma catecholamines.
4. The association of high blood pressure with enhanced pulmonary vasoreactivity to alveolar hypoxia could have clinical implications in patients who are chronically hypoxic and have systemic hypertension.