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Obesity is an important risk factor for the development of insulin resistance. Initial compensatory mechanisms include an increase in insulin levels, which are thought to induce sympathetic activation in an attempt to restore energy balance. We have previously shown, however, that sympathetic activity has no beneficial effect on resting energy expenditure in obesity. On the contrary, we hypothesize that sympathetic activation contributes to insulin resistance. To test this hypothesis, we determined insulin sensitivity using a standard hyperinsulinemic euglycemic clamp protocol in obese subjects randomly assigned in a crossover design 1 month apart to receive saline (intact day) or trimetaphan (4 mg/min IV, autonomic blocked day). Whole-body glucose uptake (MBW in mg/kg per minute) was used as index of maximal muscle glucose use. During autonomic blockade, we clamped blood pressure with a concomitant titrated intravenous infusion of the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor N-monomethyl-L-arginine. Of the 21 obese subjects (43±2 years; 35±2 kg/m(2) body mass index) studied, 14 were insulin resistant; they were more obese, had higher plasma glucose and insulin, and had higher muscle sympathetic nerve activity (23.3±1.5 versus 17.2±2.1 burst/min; P=0.03) when compared with insulin-sensitive subjects. Glucose use improved during autonomic blockade in insulin-resistant subjects (MBW 3.8±0.3 blocked versus 3.1±0.3 mg/kg per minute intact; P=0.025), with no effect in the insulin-sensitive group. These findings support the concept that sympathetic activation contributes to insulin resistance in obesity and may result in a feedback loop whereby the compensatory increase in insulin levels contributes to greater sympathetic activation.
© 2014 American Heart Association, Inc.
The purpose of this study was to determine if tonic restrain of blood pressure by nitric oxide (NO) is impaired early in the development of hypertension. Impaired NO function is thought to contribute to hypertension, but it is not clear if this is explained by direct effects of NO on vascular tone or indirect modulation of sympathetic activity. We determined the blood pressure effect of NO synthase inhibition with N(ω)-monomethyl-l-arginine (L-NMMA) during autonomic blockade with trimethaphan to eliminate baroreflex buffering and NO modulation of autonomic tone. In this setting, impaired NO modulation of vascular tone would be reflected as a blunted pressor response to L-NMMA. We enrolled a total of 66 subjects (39 ± 1.3 yr old, 30 females), 20 normotensives, 20 prehypertensives (blood pressure between 120/80 and 140/90 mmHg), 17 hypertensives, and 9 smokers (included as "positive" controls of impaired NO function). Trimethaphan normalized blood pressure in hypertensives, suggesting increased sympathetic tone contributing to hypertension. In contrast, L-NMMA produced similar increases in systolic blood pressure in normal, prehypertensive, and hypertensive subjects (31 ± 2, 32 ± 2, and 30 ± 3 mmHg, respectively), whereas the response of smokers was blunted (16 ± 5 mmHg, P = 0.012). Our results suggest that sympathetic activity plays a role in hypertension. NO tonically restrains blood pressure by ∼30 mmHg, but we found no evidence of impaired modulation by NO of vascular tone contributing to the early development of hypertension. If NO deficiency contributes to hypertension, it is likely to be through its modulation of the autonomic nervous system, which was excluded in this study.
Impaired endothelial-derived NO (eNO) is invoked in the development of many pathological conditions. Systemic inhibition of NO synthesis, used to assess the importance of NO to blood pressure (BP) regulation, increases BP by approximately 15 mm Hg. This approach underestimates the importance of eNO, because BP is restrained by baroreflex mechanisms and does not account for a role of neurally derived NO. To overcome these limitations, we induced complete autonomic blockade with trimethaphan in 17 normotensive healthy control subjects to eliminate baroreflex mechanisms and contribution of neurally derived NO. Under these conditions, the increase in BP reflects mostly blockade of tonic eNO. N(G)-Monomethyl-l-arginine (250 microg/kg per minute IV) increased mean BP by 6+/-3.7 mm Hg (from 77 to 82 mm Hg) in intact subjects and by 21+/-8.4 mm Hg (from 75 to 96 mm Hg) during autonomic blockade. We did not find a significant contribution of neurally derived NO to BP regulation after accounting for baroreflex buffering. To further validate this approach, we compared the effect of NOS inhibition during autonomic blockade in 10 normotensive individuals with that of 6 normotensive smokers known to have endothelial dysfunction but who were otherwise normal. As expected, normotensive smokers showed a significantly lower increase in systolic BP during selective eNO blockade (11+/-4.5 versus 30+/-2.3 mm Hg in normotensive individuals; P<0.005). Thus, we report a novel approach to preferentially evaluate the role of eNO on BP control in normal and disease states. Our results suggest that eNO is one of the most potent metabolic determinants of BP in humans, tonically restraining it by approximately 30 mm Hg.
Obesity is associated with alterations in the autonomic nervous system that may contribute to the increase in blood pressure and resting energy expenditure present in this condition. To test this hypothesis, we induced autonomic withdrawal with the ganglionic blocker trimethaphan in 10 lean (32+/-3 years) and 10 obese (35+/-3 years) subjects. Systolic blood pressure fell more in obese compared with lean subjects (-17+/-3 versus -11+/-1 mm Hg; P=0.019) because of a greater decrease in total peripheral resistance (-310+/-41 versus 33+/-78 dynes/sec/cm(-5); P=0.002). In contrast, resting energy expenditure decreased less in obese than in lean subjects, (-26+/-21 versus -86+/-15 kcal per day adjusted by fat-free mass; P=0.035). We confirmed that the autonomic contribution to blood pressure was greater in obesity after including additional subjects with a wider range of blood pressures. Systolic blood pressure decreased -28+/-4 mm Hg (95% CI: -38 to -18.0; n=8) in obese hypertensive subjects compared with lean (-9+/-1 mm Hg; 95% CI: -11 to -6; n=22) or obese normotensive subjects (-14+/-2 mm Hg; 95% CI: -18 to -10; n=20). After removal of autonomic influences, systolic blood pressure remained higher in obese hypertensive subjects (109+/-3 versus 98+/-2 mm Hg in lean and 103+/-2 mm Hg in obese normotensive subjects; P=0.004) suggesting a role for additional factors in obesity-associated hypertension. In conclusion, sympathetic activation induced by obesity is an important determinant to the blood pressure elevation associated with this condition but is not effective in increasing resting energy expenditure. These results suggest that the sympathetic nervous system could be targeted in the treatment of obesity-associated hypertension.
BACKGROUND - It is thought that the autonomic nervous system modulates QT interval, but traditional autonomic blockade combining propranolol and atropine has produced conflicting results. We used the alternative approach of interrupting neurotransmission at the level of autonomic ganglia to determine its effect on the QT interval.
METHODS AND RESULTS - We infused trimethaphan at increasing doses (0.5 to 10 mg/min IV) while monitoring heart rate, heart rate variability spectra, QT interval, and blood pressure in 10 normal volunteers, 9 patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA), and 8 patients with pure autonomic failure (PAF). The QT interval was corrected for heart rate using Bazett's formula (QTc). Patients with PAF had very low heart rate variability and a prolonged QTc at baseline (465+/-8 ms) compared with patients with MSA (448+/-6 ms) and normal subjects (432+/-6 ms). In normal subjects, trimethaphan dose-dependently prolonged QTc (to 469+/-7 ms), decreased RR interval (995+/-45 to 670+/-35 ms), and abolished heart rate variability. In MSA patients, trimethaphan also prolonged QTc (to 463+/-7 ms) and reduced heart rate variability but did not significantly change RR interval (from 813+/-38 to 801+/-39).
CONCLUSIONS - Autonomic blockade prolongs QT interval in normal subjects to a similar duration as in PAF patients. Furthermore, blocking residual autonomic tone in PAF patients is associated with a further increase in QT interval length. Patients with MSA have greater residual sympathetic tone and greater prolongation of the QT interval during ganglionic blockade than PAF patients.
Recent studies suggest that activation of the sympathetic nervous system either directly or indirectly influences cerebrovascular tone in humans even within the autoregulatory range. In 6 healthy subjects (aged 29+/-4 years), we used transcranial Doppler sonography to determine cerebral blood flow velocity during sympathetic activation elicited through head-up tilt (HUT) and sympathetic deactivation through ganglionic blockade. PaCO(2) was manipulated through hyperventilation and CO(2) breathing (5%). With subjects in the supine position and during HUT, mean arterial pressure was not influenced by PaCO(2). During ganglionic blockade, mean arterial pressure decreased markedly with hyperventilation (-13+/-1.9 mm Hg). Manipulation of sympathetic tone elicited only mild changes in cerebral blood flow (64+/-5.8 cm/s supine, 58+/-4.9 cm/s upright, and 66+/-6.2 cm/s during ganglionic blockade; P:=0.07 by ANOVA). The slope of the regression between PaCO(2) and mean velocity was 1.6+/-0.18 cm/(s. mm Hg) supine, 1.3+/-0.14 cm/(s. mm Hg) during HUT, and 2.3+/-0.36 cm/(s. mm Hg) during ganglionic blockade (P:<0.05). Spontaneous PaCO(2) and ventilatory response to hypercapnia were also modulated by the level of sympathetic activity. Changes in sympathetic tone have a limited effect on cerebral blood flow at normal PaCO(2) levels. However, the sympathetic nervous system seems to attenuate the CO(2)-induced increase in cerebral blood flow. This phenomenon may indicate a moderate direct effect of the sympathetic nervous system on the cerebral vasculature. Furthermore, sympathetic activation tends to increase ventilation and thus can indirectly increase cerebrovascular tone.
BACKGROUND - Approximately 50% of patients with primary autonomic failure have supine hypertension. We investigated whether this supine hypertension could be driven by residual sympathetic activity.
METHODS AND RESULTS - In patients with multiple system atrophy (MSA) or pure autonomic failure (PAF), we studied the effect of oral yohimbine on seated systolic blood pressure (SBP), the effect of ganglionic blockade (with trimethaphan) on supine SBP and plasma catecholamine levels, and the effect of alpha(1)-adrenoreceptor blockade (phentolamine) on supine SBP. The SBP response to yohimbine was greater in patients with MSA than in those with PAF (area under the curve, 2248+/-543 versus 467+/-209 mm Hg. min; P=0.022). MSA patients with a higher supine SBP had a greater response than those with a lower supine SBP (3874+/-809 versus 785+/-189 mm Hg. min; P=0. 0017); this relationship was not seen in PAF patients. MSA patients had a marked depressor response to low infusion rates of trimethaphan; the response in PAF patients was more variable. Plasma norepinephrine decreased in both groups, but heart rate did not change in either group. At 1 mg/min, trimethaphan decreased supine SBP by 67+/-8 and 12+/-6 mm Hg in MSA and PAF patients, respectively (P<0.0001). Cardiac index and total peripheral resistance decreased in MSA patients by 33.4+/-5.8% and 40.7+/-9.5%, respectively (P=0. 0015). Patients having a depressor response to trimethaphan also had a depressor response to phentolamine. In MSA patients, the pressor response to yohimbine and the decrease in SBP with 1 mg/min trimethaphan were correlated (r=0.98; P=0.001).
CONCLUSIONS - Residual sympathetic activity drives supine hypertension in MSA. It contributes to, but does not completely explain, supine hypertension in PAF.
Systemic administration of adrenergic agonists and nitric oxide donors is used extensively to determine cardiovascular receptor sensitivity. Conclusions regarding receptor sensitivity in the presence of the baroreflex may be misleading. In 8 normal volunteers, we determined the heart rate and blood pressure changes after incremental bolus doses of isoproterenol, phenylephrine, and sodium nitroprusside before and during neuronal nicotinic cholinergic (N(N)-cholinergic) blockade with trimethaphan. Results are given as median (25th/75th percentile). With trimethaphan, the baroreflex slope (as determined by bolus doses of nitroprusside and phenylephrine) decreased from 24 (22/26) to 0.00 (0.00/0.09) ms/mm Hg (P<0.01). The dose of isoproterenol that decreased systolic blood pressure (SBP) 12.5 mm Hg changed from 0.61 (0.51/5.3) to 0.17 (0.12/0.21) microg (P<0.01); the dose required to increase heart rate 12.5 bpm changed from 0.22 (0.17/0.41) to 0.74 (0.33/2.3) microg (P<0.01). The dose of nitroprusside required to decrease SBP 12.5 mm Hg changed from 2.3 (1.3/3.4) to 0.18 (0.14/0.24) microg/kg (P<0.01). The dose of phenylephrine required to increase SBP 12.5 mm Hg changed from 135 (110/200) to 16 (10/30) microg (P<0.01). We conclude that the efferent arc of the baroreflex can be completely interrupted with N(N)-cholinergic blockade. Estimation of adrenoreceptor sensitivity and sensitivity to nitric oxide donors by systemic administration of agonists is severely confounded by baroreflexes. Uncoupling of the baroreflex by N(N)-cholinergic blockade may be a useful method to obtain an integrated measure of adrenergic receptor sensitivity and sensitivity to nitric oxide donors in humans. This approach would permit the comparison of normal and abnormal physiological states without the "noise" of baroreflex buffering.
Pure autonomic failure has been conceptualized as deficient sympathetic and parasympathetic innervation. Several recent observations in chronic autonomic failure, however, cannot be explained simply by loss of autonomic innervation, at least according to our current understanding. To simulate acute autonomic failure, we blocked N(N)-nicotinic receptors with intravenous trimethaphan (6+/-0.4 mg/min) in 7 healthy subjects (4 men, 3 women, aged 32+/-3 years, 68+/-4 kg, 171+/-5 cm). N(N)-Nicotinic receptor blockade resulted in near-complete interruption of sympathetic and parasympathetic efferents as indicated by a battery of autonomic function tests. With trimethaphan, small postural changes from the horizontal were associated with significant blood pressure changes without compensatory changes in heart rate. Gastrointestinal motility, pupillary function, saliva production, and tearing were profoundly suppressed with trimethaphan. Plasma norepinephrine level decreased from 1.1+/-0.12 nmol/L (180+/-20 pg/mL) at baseline to 0.23+/-0.05 nmol/L (39+/-8 pg/mL) with trimethaphan (P<.001). There was a more than 16-fold increase in plasma vasopressin (P<.01) and no change in plasma renin activity. We conclude that blockade of N(N)-cholinergic receptors is useful to simulate the hemodynamic alterations of acute autonomic failure in humans. The loss of function with acute N(N)-cholinergic blockade is more complete than in most cases of chronic autonomic failure. This difference may be exploited to elucidate the contributions of acute denervation and chronic adaptation to the pathophysiology of autonomic failure. N(N)-Cholinergic blockade may also be applied to study human cardiovascular physiology and pharmacology in the absence of confounding baroreflexes.