Although brain cell viability depends largely on cerebral circulation, mechanisms of blood flow control, such as autoregulation, or of the pathogenesis of functionally impaired blood supply to brain regions, such as in cerebral vasospasm after subarachnoid hemorrhage, have not been clearly defined. Our recent studies support the hypothesis that nitric oxide, released from nitrergic nerves, plays a crucial role as a neurotransmitter in vasodilating cerebral arteries from primate and subprimate mammals. In the present study, we demonstrated, by using arterial angiography, that electrical stimulation of the pterygopalatine ganglion produced vasodilatation of ipsilateral cerebral arteries of anesthetized Japanese monkeys. The response was abolished by intravenous injections of N(G)-nitro- L-arginine, a nitric oxide synthase inhibitor. Denervation of the ganglion elicited cerebral vasoconstriction, indicating that vasodilator nerves from the vasomotor center were tonically active. Stimulation of the greater petrosal nerve, upstream of the pterygopalatine ganglion, also elicited cerebral vasodilatation, which was abolished by treatment with the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor and with hexamethonium, indicating that the nerve is in connection via synapses with the nitrergic nerve innervating cerebral arteries. Endogenous nitric oxide released from the nerve may contribute to the maintenance of blood flow in major cerebral arteries necessary to supply blood to the different brain regions. Without this influence, cerebral arteries might be constricted to the extent that blood flow is impeded. This is the first direct evidence indicating an important role of nitric oxide liberated by pre- and postganglionic nerve stimulation in the control of cerebral arterial tone in primates. (C) 2000 IBRO.
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