The principal pathways involved in the in vivo modulation of hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction, pulmonary arterial remodelling and pulmonary hypertension

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Abstract

Hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction (HPV) serves to optimize ventilation–perfusion matching in focal hypoxia and thereby enhances pulmonary gas exchange. During global hypoxia, however, HPV induces general pulmonary vasoconstriction, which may lead to pulmonary hypertension (PH), impaired exercise capacity, right-heart failure and pulmonary oedema at high altitude. In chronic hypoxia, generalized HPV together with hypoxic pulmonary arterial remodelling, contribute to the development of PH. The present article reviews the principal pathways in the in vivo modulation of HPV, hypoxic pulmonary arterial remodelling and PH with primary focus on the endothelin-1, nitric oxide, cyclooxygenase and adenine nucleotide pathways. In summary, endothelin-1 and thromboxane A2 may enhance, whereas nitric oxide and prostacyclin may moderate, HPV as well as hypoxic pulmonary arterial remodelling and PH. The production of prostacyclin seems to be coupled primarily to cyclooxygenase-1 in acute hypoxia, but to cyclooxygenase-2 in chronic hypoxia. The potential role of adenine nucleotides in modulating HPV is unclear, but warrants further study. Additional modulators of the pulmonary vascular responses to hypoxia may include angiotensin II, histamine, serotonin/5-hydroxytryptamine, leukotrienes and epoxyeicosatrienoic acids. Drugs targeting these pathways may reduce acute and/or chronic hypoxic PH. Endothelin receptor antagonists and phosphodiesterase-5 inhibitors may additionally improve exercise capacity in hypoxia. Importantly, the modulation of the pulmonary vascular responses to hypoxia varies between species and individuals, with hypoxic duration and age. The review also define how drugs targeting the endothelin-1, nitric oxide, cyclooxygenase and adenine nucleotide pathways may improve pulmonary haemodynamics, but also impair pulmonary gas exchange by interference with HPV in chronic lung diseases.

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