Exogenous nitric oxide (NO) has been shown to modulate the contractile force of rat cardiac myocytes. We sought to determine whether endogenous NO-production in the isolated normal rat heart has an effect on myocardial contractility. Hearts of male Wistar rats were investigated using a constant flow perfused non-paced Langendorff preparation. Changes of contractile parameters such as left ventricular peak pressure, dP/dt(max) and dP/dt(min), and of coronary perfusion pressure and heart rate were recorded after infusion of the NO-synthase inhibitors Nω-nitro-L-arginine (L-NOARG, 0.1 mM, 1.0 mM, n = 6), Nω-methyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA, 0.1 mM, 1.0 mM, n = 9) and methylene blue (2 μM, 20 μM, n = 6), the NO-donor sodium (Z)-1-(N,N-diethylamino)diazen-1-ium-1,2-diolat (DEA/NO, 0.01 μM, 0.1 μM, n = 12), the specific inhibitor of soluble guanylate cyclase 1H-[1,2,4]oxadiazolo[4,3-a]quinoxalin-1-one (ODQ, 0.1 μM, n = 7) and L-arginine (0.1 mM, 1.0 mM, n = 6). All NO-synthase inhibitors reduced the contractile function of the ventricular muscle before changes in coronary perfusion pressure were evident. The negative inotropic effect of L-NMMA was absent in the presence of an equimolar concentration of L-arginine. ODQ reduced contractile force and coronary perfusion pressure in parallel. By contrast, L-arginine and DEA/NO improved the contractile force of the left ventricle and DEA/NO decreased coronary perfusion pressure. Heart rate was reduced by L-NOARG (1 mM) and methylene blue (20 μM), while DEA/NO (0.1 μM) and L-arginine (1 mM) had a positive chronotropic effect. All these changes were significant (P < 0.05). These results suggest that endogenous NO-production exerts a positive effect on myocardial contraction that is mediated by activation of guanylate cyclase. In addition, NO might be involved in regulation of heart rate.
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