Vasoconstrictors cause contraction of pulmonary microvascular endothelial cells in culture. We wondered if this meant that contraction of these cells in situ caused active control of microvascular perfusion. If true, it would mean that pulmonary microvessels were not simply passive tubes and that control of pulmonary microvascular perfusion was not mainly due to the contraction and dilation of arterioles. To test this idea, we vasoconstricted isolated perfused rat lungs with angiotensin II, bradykinin, serotonin, or U46619 (a thromboxane analog) at concentrations that produced equal flows. We also perfused matched-flow controls. We then infused a bolus of 3 μm diameter particles into each lung and measured the rate of appearance of the particles in the venous effluent. We also measured microscopic trapping patterns of particles retained within each lung. Thirty seconds after particle infusion, venous particle concentrations were significantly lower (P ≤ 0.05) for lungs perfused with angiotensin II or bradykinin than for those perfused with U46619, but not significantly different from serotonin perfused lungs or matched flow controls. Microscopic clustering of particles retained within the lungs was significantly greater (P ≤ 0.05) for lungs perfused with angiotensin II, bradykinin, or serotonin, than for lungs perfused with U46619 or for matched flow controls. Our results suggest that these agents did not produce vasoconstriction by a common mechanism and support the idea that pulmonary microvessels possess a level of active control and are not simply passive exchange vessels.
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