Endotoxemia causes hypotension characterized by vasodilation and resistance to vasopressor agents. The molecular mechanisms responsible for these changes are unclear. The ATP-regulated K+ (K+ATP) channel has recently been found to be an important modulator of vascular smooth muscle tone which may transduce local metabolic changes into alterations of vascular flow. We report here that in endotoxic hypotension, the sulfonylurea glyburide, a specific inhibitor for the K+ATP channel, caused vasoconstriction and restoration of blood pressure. Glyburide also induced vasoconstriction and restoration of blood pressure in the vasodilatory hypotension caused by hypoxic lactic acidosis, while it was ineffective in the hypotension induced by sodium nitroprusside. Thus, vasodilation and hypotension in septic shock are, at least in part, due to activation of the K+ATP channel in vascular smooth muscle, and anaerobic metabolism with acidosis is a sufficient stimulus for channel activation. Because anaerobic metabolism and acidosis are common features in shock of any etiology, sulfonylureas may be effective therapeutic agents in the treatment of shock.
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