Endothelin-1 (ET-1) and adrenomedullin (ADM) are both produced in the arterial wall, but have opposing biological actions. Evidence from experimental animals suggests a functional interaction between ET-1 and ADM. We have tested this in humans. Small resistance arteries were obtained from gluteal biopsies taken from patients with chronic heart failure (CHF) due to coronary heart disease (CHD), or with CHD and preserved ventricular function. The contractile responses to big ET-1 and to ET-1 in both sets of vessels were studied in the absence (control) and presence of ADM at 20 pmol/l (low ADM) or 200 pmol/l (high ADM), using wire myography. ADM did not affect the conversion of big ET-1 into ET-1 in vessels from patients with either CHD or CHF. Low ADM did not alter the contractile response to ET-1 in vessels from patients with CHF. Low ADM was not tested in vessels from patients with CHD, but high ADM did not affect this response in arteries from these patients. High ADM did, however, significantly reduce the vasoconstrictor effect of ET-1 in vessels from patients with CHF. The maximum response, as a percentage of the response to high potassium, was 199% (S.E.M. 25%) in the control experiments (n = 14), 205% (27%) in the low-ADM (n = 7) studies and 150% (17%) in the high-ADM (n = 6) experiments (P < 0.001). Furthermore, the Hill coefficient increased from 0.57±0.05 in the absence of ADM to 1.16±0.15 in the high-ADM experiments, indicating that ADM at 200 pmol/l specifically antagonized one receptor type in vessels from patients with CHF. We conclude that there is a one-site receptor interaction between ADM and ET-1 that is specific for vessels from patients with CHF. This functional interaction between ADM and ET-1 in resistance arteries may be of pathophysiological importance in CHF.

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