The dependence of vascular relaxation on an intact endothelium and the relationship between relaxation and cyclic GMP accumulation were determined in coronary arteries isolated from cardiac transplantation patients with or without coronary atherosclerosis. In nonatherosclerotic arteries, the endothelium-dependent agent acetylcholine produced concentration-related relaxations. In atherosclerotic arteries, endothelium-dependent relaxations were abolished with acetylcholine, partly suppressed with substance P and histamine, and completely preserved with the ionophore A23187. In these arteries, the endothelium-independent agent nitroglycerin remained fully active. Accumulation of cyclic GMP in atherosclerotic strips was suppressed with acetylcholine but unattenuated with A23187 and nitroglycerin. In aortas from rabbits with diet-induced atherosclerosis, there was likewise an impaired cholinergic relaxation and cyclic GMP accumulation in the presence of preserved responses to A23187 and nitroglycerin. The results demonstrate that impaired cholinergic responses in atherosclerotic arteries reflect a muscarinic defect and not an inability of endothelium to release endothelial factor or smooth muscle to respond to it.
C Bossaller, G B Habib, H Yamamoto, C Williams, S Wells, P D Henry