Circulating Endothelin-1 Alters Critical Mechanisms Regulating Cerebral Microcirculation
Endothelin-1 (ET1) is a potent vasoconstrictor peptide implicated in the cerebrovascular alterations occurring in stroke, subarachnoid hemorrhage, and brain trauma. Brain or circulating levels of ET1 are elevated in these conditions and in risk factors for cerebrovascular diseases. Most studies on the cerebrovascular effects of ET1 have focused on vascular smooth muscle constriction, and little is known about the effect of the peptide on cerebrovascular regulation. We tested the hypothesis that ET1 increases cerebrovascular risk by disrupting critical mechanisms regulating cerebral blood flow. Male C57Bl6/J mice equipped with a cranial window were infused intravenously with vehicle or ET1, and somatosensory cortex blood flow was assessed by laser Doppler flowmetry. ET1 infusion increased mean arterial pressure and attenuated the blood flow increase produced by neural activity (whisker stimulation) or neocortical application of the endothelium-dependent vasodilator acetylcholine but not A23187. The cerebrovascular effects of ET1 were abrogated by the ETA receptor antagonist BQ123 and were not related to vascular oxidative stress. Rather, the dysfunction was dependent on Rho-associated protein kinase activity. Furthermore, in vitro studies demonstrated that ET1 suppresses endothelial nitric oxide (NO) production, assessed by its metabolite nitrite, an effect associated with Rho-associated protein kinase–dependent changes in the phosphorylation state of endothelial NO synthase. Collectively, these novel observations demonstrate that increased ET1 plasma levels alter key regulatory mechanisms of the cerebral circulation by modulating endothelial NO synthase phosphorylation and NO production through Rho-associated protein kinase. The ET1-induced cerebrovascular dysfunction may increase cerebrovascular risk by lowering cerebrovascular reserves and increasing the vulnerability of the brain to cerebral ischemia.
- Received May 24, 2013.
- Revision received June 11, 2013.
- Accepted July 27, 2013.
- © 2013 American Heart Association, Inc.