1. There is currently considerable interest in the role of locally produced vasodilators such as nitric oxide and adenosine in the pathogenesis of the peripheral vasodilatation of cirrhosis. However, the signal transduction pathways involving guanylate cyclase and adenylate cyclase have not been clearly delineated in the isolated blood vessel.

2. We therefore aimed to examine the in vitro vasorelaxant effects of the endothelium-dependent dilator bethanechol, the endothelium-independent dilator sodium nitroprusside and adenosine, as drugs that work via activation of guanylate and adenylate cyclases, in isolated aortic and superior mesenteric arterial rings from cirrhotic and control rats.

3. Cirrhosis was induced by chronic bile duct ligation and section of 24–28 days' duration, while controls underwent sham operation. The vessels were precontracted with the α1-adrenoceptor agonist phenylephrine, then relaxed by incremental doses of the three drugs.

4. Marked attenuation of vasoconstriction induced by phenylephrine in isolated aortic and mesenteric arterial rings from cirrhotic rats compared with the control vessels was observed.

5. There were no significant differences in relaxation between the cirrhotic and control vessels to the three drugs. We conclude that in vitro vasodilatory responses mediated through signal transduction pathways involving guanylate cyclase and adenylate cyclase remain unchanged in a rat model of biliary cirrhosis.

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