STUDY OBJECTIVE - The aim was to investigate the role of the endothelium in modulating the acetylcholine response in porcine coronary microvessels and compare the results with simultaneously studied large coronary arteries.
DESIGN - Coronary microvessels [104 (SEM 3.3) microns; range 38-150] were removed from fresh porcine hearts and studied in vitro during no flow constant pressure conditions. Endothelium derived relaxing factor (EDRF) activity and the role of the endothelium in modulating the acetylcholine response in microvessels was assessed by measuring changes in intraluminal diameter using a video tracking device. Large coronary arteries were simultaneously studied using conventional isometric ring techniques.
EXPERIMENTAL MATERIAL - Fresh porcine hearts were obtained from a local slaughterhouse.
MEASUREMENTS AND MAIN RESULTS - Acetylcholine was a potent vasoconstrictor (EC50 = 0.17 microM) of passively distended microvessels. The effects of EDRF were studied by either inactivation with haemoglobin or inhibition of EDRF synthesis with N-omega-nitro-L-arginine. Preconstricted microvessels exposed to either N-omega-nitro-L-arginine or haemoglobin constricted further, consistent with basal release of EDRF. Neither drug affected passively distended microvessels. The acetylcholine vasoconstrictor response was potentiated after exposure of microvessels to either drug. Atropine, but not indomethacin, blocked the acetylcholine response in microvessels. As with microvessels, acetylcholine was a vasoconstrictor (EC50 = 0.3 microM) of large coronary arteries. In contrast to microvessels, indomethacin antagonised acetylcholine vasoconstriction in vessels with intact endothelium. Bioassay experiments using indomethacin-treated large epicardial donor artery segments showed basal release of EDRF but no EDRF release in response to acetylcholine.
CONCLUSIONS - The results show the microvessels and large coronary arteries are similar in their vasoconstrictor response to acetylcholine, that both release EDRF basally, and that vasoconstriction to acetylcholine is importantly modulated by the endothelium. In large arteries, acetylcholine does not stimulate EDRF release and, in contrast to microvessels, a cyclo-oxygenase product influences the vasoconstrictor action of acetylcholine.