Endothelin ETA receptors predominate in chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension

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Endothelin-1 levels are raised in chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension. Our aim in this study was to identify the presence of endothelin receptors in patients with CTEPH by analysing tissue removed at pulmonary endarterectomy.

Main methods:

Pulmonary endarterectomy tissue cross-sections were analysed using autoradiography with [125I]-ET-1 using ligands selective for ETA or ETB to determine sub-type distribution. The precise cellular localisation of ETA and ETB receptors was determined using selective antisera to both sub-types and compared with haematoxylin and eosin, Elastic Van Gieson and smooth muscle actin labelled sections.

Key findings:

Two patterns of ET-1 binding were found. In sections with frequent recanalised channels, ET-1 bound to the smooth muscle cells surrounding the channels. In sections where there was less organised thrombus with no obvious re-canalisation, minimal ET-1 binding was observed. Some contractile type smooth muscle cells not associated with recanalised channels and diffusely spread throughout the PEA material were associated with ET receptor antibody binding on immunohistochemistry. There was a greater expression of the ETA receptor type in the specimens.


The presence of ET-1 receptors in the chronic thrombus in proximal CTEPH suggests ET-1 could act not only on the distal vasculopathy in the unobstructed vessels but may also stimulate smooth muscle cell proliferation within chronic clot. The abundance of ET receptors within the tissue provides evidence that the ET pathway is involved in the pathology of chronic thrombus reorganisation leading to CTEPH providing a rationale for the repurposing of ET receptor antagonists in the treatment of this condition.

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