Response of Intra-acinar Pulmonary Microvessels to Hypoxia, Hypercapnic Acidosis, and Isocapnic Acidosis

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To elucidate the differential reactivity of pulmonary microvessels in the acini to hypoxia, excessive CO2, and increased H+, we investigated changes in the diameter of precapillary arterioles, postcapillary venules, and capillaries in isolated rat lungs on exposure to normocapnic hypoxia (2% O2), normoxic hypercapnia (15% CO2), and isocapnic acidosis (0.01 mol/L HCl). Microvascular diameters were precisely examined using a real-time confocal laser scanning luminescence microscope coupled to a high-sensitivity camera with an image intensifier. Measurements were made under conditions with and without indomethacin or Nomega-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester to assess the importance of vasoactive substances produced by cyclooxygenase (COX) or NO synthase (NOS) as it relates to the reactivity of pulmonary microvessels to physiological stimuli. We found that acute hypoxia contracted precapillary arterioles that had diameters of 20 to 30 [micro sign]m but did not constrict postcapillary venules of similar size. COX- and NOS-related vasoactive substances did not modulate hypoxia-elicited arteriolar constriction. Hypercapnia induced a distinct venular dilatation closely associated with vasodilators produced by COX but not by NOS. Arterioles were appreciably constricted in isocapnic acidosis when NOS, but not COX, was suppressed, whereas venules showed no constrictive response even when both enzymes were inhibited. Capillaries were neither constricted nor dilated under any experimental conditions. These findings suggest that reactivity to hypoxia, CO2, and H+ is not qualitatively similar among intra-acinar microvessels, in which COX- and NOS-associated vasoactive substances function differently. (Circ Res. 1998;82:722-728.)

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