Sex difference in norepinephrine surge in response to psychological stress through nitric oxide in rats

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Abstract

Psychological stress elevates blood pressure through sympathetic nerve activation. This pressor response is supposedly associated with cardiovascular events. We investigated a sex difference in the pressor response and norepinephrine surge to cage-switch stress in rats. Wistar male and female rats were catheterized for blood pressure monitoring and blood sampling. Six days post-surgery, the rats were exposed to the cage-switch stress and blood samples were collected at rest and 30 min after the start of the stress. The stress-induced pressor response was greater in the male than in the female rats. The stress significantly increased the norepinephrine level in the male, but not in the female rats. Pre-treatment with NG-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), a nitric oxide (NO) synthase inhibitor, attenuated the norepinephrine response significantly in the male rats. There was no sex difference in the endothelial NO synthase expression in the gastrocnemius muscle. However the phosphorylation at serine 1177, a marker for eNOS activation, was higher in the male than in the female rats. These results suggest that NO is involved in the norepinephrine surge to psychological stress in the male rats, but not in the female rats. This is the first report on a sex difference in the norepinephrine surge in response to psychological stress through NO, in association with pressor response.

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