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This study was performed to assess the effects of subacute sepsis in rats on the in vitro reactivity of arterioles (internal diameter, 100–150 μm) to α1- and α2-adrenergic stimulation and to angiotensin II. Male Sprague-Dawley rats were rendered septic by intraperitoneal implantation of a gelatin capsule containing sterile rat feces and 1 x 106 viable colony forming units of Escherichia coli. Control rats underwent sham laparotomy and implantation of a gelatin capsule containing only sterile feces. In vitro reactivity of arterioles from mesentery and skeletal muscle were studied 48 h later in a pressurized (50 mmHg) no flow state using videomicroscopy. Subacute sepsis decreased the contractile response of nonprecontracted microvessels from both anatomical sites to phenylephrine (both p < .01 versus control) and blunted the relaxation response to staurosporine (both p < .01), an inhibitor of protein kinase C. The small contraction to angiotensin II of mesenteric vessels was inhibited by sepsis (p < .05) but was unaltered in the skeletal muscle microcirculation. In the precontracted mesenteric microvessels from septic rats, endothelium-dependent relaxation to clonidine and to adenosine 5‘-diphosphate were decreased (both p < .01 versus control), whereas in skeletal muscle microvessels, clonidine and adenosine 5’-diphosphate elicited constriction (both p < .01). Relaxation to the endothelium independent vasodilators sodium nitroprusside and pinacidil was preserved across all vessels. In conclusion, mesenteric and skeletal muscle microvascular responses to angiotensin II and α1 - and α2-adrenergic stimulation are altered in subacute sepsis. This may in part lead to systemic hypotension and altered organ perfusion during states of chronic sepsis.

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