1. The endothelium contributes substantially to the modulation of myogenic tone in coronary arteries from spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and Wistar—Kyoto rats (WKY). This study has addressed the contributions of endothelium-derived nitric oxide and cyclo-oxygenase products to this modulation in small coronary arteries (approximately 200 μm internal diameter) from 20-week-old SHR and WKY under pressurized, no-flow conditions in an arteriograph.

2. Active pressure—diameter relationships were uninfluenced by the cyclo-oxygenase inhibitor indomethacin (10 μmol/l) in either rat strain. In the presence of indomethacin and the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor Nω-nitro-l-arginine (l-NNA, 0.1 mmol/l), coronary arteries from SHR and WKY generated significantly greater myogenic tone. This increase in tone was similar in both strains.

3. In endothelium-denuded arteries, indomethacin and l-NNA did not influence tone.

4. Therefore, these results demonstrate that endothelium-derived nitric oxide is basally released to attenuate SHR and WKY coronary artery myogenic tone, whereas endothelium-derived cyclo-oxygenase products have no net vasoactive influence. Additionally, these data suggest that basal nitric oxide-mediated relaxation is normal in SHR coronary arteries and is therefore unlikely to be a pathogenic mechanism in this animal model of hypertension.

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