Two NO synthase (NOS) isoforms have been described in vessels, an endothelial constitutive NOS (eNOS) and an inducible NOS (iNOS). The purpose of the present study was to examine the endothelium-dependent and endothelium-independent hypotensive response in aging rats, analyzing the ability of their vessels to produce NO. The studies were performed in 2 groups of euvolemic, conscious, male Wistar rats: aging rats (n=20, 18 months old) and young rats (n=20, 5 months old). The hypotensive responses to acetylcholine, bradykinin, and sodium nitroprusside were determined. Furthermore, the expression of the NOS isoforms by Western blot and the eNOS and iNOS activities, defined as Ca2+-dependent and Ca2+-independent conversion of [14C]L-arginine into [14C]L-citrulline, respectively, were also determined. In the aging rats, we found an impaired hypotensive response to acetylcholine and bradykinin (2 NO- and endothelium-dependent hypotensive agents) that was accompanied by a preserved hypotensive response to sodium nitroprusside. Aging rats also demonstrated an enhanced sensitivity response to the pressor effect of the L-arginine antagonist L-Nomega-nitro-L-arginine and a reduced vasoconstrictor response to angiotensin II. The inhibition of NO synthesis normalized the pressor effect of angiotensin II in the aging animals. Nitrite plus nitrate plasma levels were increased in aging rats. Furthermore, cGMP content was also higher in the aging vessels. In the aging aortas, the expression of both eNOS and iNOS isoforms was enhanced. However, in aging rats, the activity of the eNOS isoform was markedly reduced, a finding that was accompanied by the presence of iNOS activity. The vessel wall of aging rats showed an enhanced expression of eNOS and iNOS isoforms. However, eNOS activity was reduced in the aging animals. These findings could explain the impaired endothelium-dependent hypotensive response associated with aging.
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