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Research Article

Blood pressure lowering by pioglitazone. Evidence for a direct vascular effect.

T A Buchanan, W P Meehan, Y Y Jeng, D Yang, T M Chan, J L Nadler, S Scott, R K Rude and W A Hsueh

Department of Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Southern California Medical Center, Los Angeles 90033, USA.

Published July 1995

To examine potential mechanisms for the blood pressure-lowering action of the thiazolidinedione compound, pioglitazone (PIO), we studied the effects of the drug on blood pressure and insulin action in vivo and on vascular tissue in vitro. In vivo, PIO lowered blood pressure in fructose-fed and chow-fed rats to an extent that could not be explained by alterations in fasting plasma insulin or free magnesium concentrations or by alterations in whole-body insulin sensitivity. In vitro, PIO caused significant blunting of the contractile responses of aortic rings to NE, arginine vasopressin (AVP), and potassium chloride; the blunting of responses to NE was maintained after removal of the endothelium. To assess the potential importance of extracellular calcium to the vasodepressor effect of PIO, we measured contractile responses to NE in the absence of calcium, and then after acute restoration of calcium in the presence of NE. PIO had no effect on the contractile response in the absence of calcium. By contrast, PIO blunted by 42% the contractile response that occurred when the extracellular calcium supply was acutely restored in the presence of NE, suggesting that the blunting was mediated by blockade of calcium uptake by vascular smooth muscle. Such an effect was confirmed in cultured a7r5 vascular smooth muscle cells, which exhibited a brisk increase in intracellular calcium in response to AVP that was blocked by PIO in a dose-dependent fashion. Our data indicate that PIO has a direct vascular effect that appears to be mediated at least in part by inhibition of agonist-mediated calcium uptake by vascular smooth muscle. The direct vascular effect may contribute to the blood pressure-lowering actions of PIO in vivo, because that effect could not be explained by alterations in whole-body insulin sensitivity.

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