Evidence continues to accumulate on the importance of paracrine substances formed in the vascular endothelium in the regulation of the vascular system. Those that relax the underlying smooth muscle include nitric oxide, prostacyclin, and an unidentified hyperpolarizing factor; those causing contraction include angiotensin II, endothelin, oxygen-derived free radicals, prostacyclin H2, and thromboxane A2. Determination of the mechanisms governing the formation and release of these substances in different blood vessels of the same species and in different species as well as the maintenance of the balance between them is important for understanding their role in normal circumstances and in diseases of the blood vessels. In this article, we will summarize the current understanding of the role of endothelium-derived relaxing factors and discuss the possibility that endothelial dysfunction may play a primary as well as a secondary role in the pathogenesis of primary hypertension. As a consequence of this dysfunction, substances formed in the endothelial cells at the sites of the arterial baroreceptors could lead to their resetting, resulting in less inhibition of the vasomotor centers, enhanced neurohumoral activity, and a consequential increase in systemic vascular resistance. This increase could be enhanced by a predominant action of endothelium-derived contracting factors in the resistance vessels. Proliferation of the vascular smooth muscle would follow, because of the mitogenic action of some of these factors and other growth promotors. By these mechanisms, the endothelium may participate in the polygenic dysfunction characteristic of primary hypertension, not only in initiating the increase in arterial blood pressure, but also in sustaining it.
- Copyright © 1991 by American Heart Association