Cerebral ischemia remains a major cause of morbidity and mortality with little advancement in subacute treatment options. This review aims to cover and discuss novel insight obtained during the last decade into plastic changes in the vasoconstrictor receptor profiles of cerebral arteries and microvessels that takes place after different types of stroke. Receptors like the endothelin type B, angiotensin type 1, and 5-hydroxytryptamine type 1B/1D receptors are upregulated in the smooth muscle layer of cerebral arteries after different types of ischemic stroke as well as after subarachnoid hemorrhage, yielding rather dramatic changes in the contractility of the vessels. Some of the signal transduction processes mediating this receptor upregulation have been elucidated. In particular the extracellular regulated kinase 1/2 pathway, which is activated early in the process, has proven to be a promising therapeutic target for prevention of vasoconstrictor receptor upregulation after stroke. Together, those findings provide new perspectives on the pathophysiology of ischemic stroke and point toward a novel way of reducing vasoconstriction, neuronal cell death, and thus neurologic deficits after stroke.
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