The aim of this study was to assess the influence of the endogenous status of ovarian hormones on the relaxation induced by the β-adrenoceptor agonists isoprenaline (isoproterenol) and dobutamine in thoracic aorta segments, precontracted with noradrenaline, from age-matched (13-week-old) virgin (oestrus) and ovariectomized (OVX) prepubertal female Wistar rats. Isoprenaline-induced relaxation was decreased in intact aortic segments from OVX rats compared with that in segments from oestrus rats. Relaxation was significantly reduced by endothelium removal, 1 µmol/l propranolol or 100 µmol/l NG-nitro-l-arginine methyl ester (l-NAME). The β1-adrenoceptor agonist dobutamine induced less relaxation in intact arteries from oestrus rats than did isoprenaline, and dobutamine-induced relaxation was markedly less in intact segments from OVX compared with oestrus rats. This dobutamine-induced relaxation was abolished by endothelium removal, and reduced by 1 µmol/l propranolol, 100 µmol/l l-NAME or 1 µmol/l yohimbine. Cholera toxin (an activator of the stimulatory G-protein Gs) caused relaxation in intact arteries from oestrus rats; this relaxation was decreased by both deprivation of ovarian hormones and endothelium removal. Forskolin (a direct activator of the catalytic subunit of adenylate cyclase) and sodium nitroprusside (a nitric oxide donor and cGMP-dependent vasodilator agonist) induced similar endothelium-independent relaxation in arteries from both oestrus and OVX rats. These results suggest that the relaxation elicited by endothelial β-adrenoceptor activation in the rat thoracic aorta is impaired by deprivation of female ovarian hormones; this impairment is caused, at least in part, by decreases in both the endothelial release of NO and Gs function.

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