To determine the potential contribution of endothelin (ET) to modulation of high pulmonary vascular resistance in the normal fetus, we studied the effects of BQ 123, a selective ET-A receptor antagonist, and sarafoxotoxin S6c (SFX), a selective ET-B receptor agonist, in 31 chronically prepared late gestation fetal lambs. Brief intrapulmonary infusions of BQ 123 (0.1-1.0 mcg/min for 10 min) caused sustained increases in left pulmonary artery flow (Qp) without changing main pulmonary artery (MPA) and aortic (Ao) pressures. In contrast, BQ 123 did not change vascular resistance in a regional systemic circulation (the fetal hindlimb). To determine whether big-endothelin-1 (big-ET-1)-induced pulmonary vasoconstriction is mediated by ET-A receptor stimulation, we studied the effects of big-ET-1 with or without pretreatment with BQ 123. BQ 123 (0.5 mcg/min for 10 min) blocked the rise in total pulmonary resistance caused by big-ET-1. CGS 27830 (100 mcg/min for 10 min), an ET-A and -B receptor antagonist, did not change basal tone but blocked big-ET-1-induced pulmonary vasoconstriction. Brief and prolonged intrapulmonary infusion of SFX (0.1 mcg/min for 10 min) increased Qp twofold without changing MPA or Ao pressures. Nitro-L-arginine (L-NA), a selective endothelium-derived nitric oxide (EDNO) antagonist, blocked vasodilation caused by BQ 123 and SFX. We conclude that: (a) BQ 123 causes sustained fetal pulmonary vasodilation, but did not change vascular resistance in the fetal hindlimb; (b) Big-ET-1-induced pulmonary vasoconstriction may be mediated through ET-A receptor stimulation; and (c) ET-B receptor stimulation causes pulmonary vasodilation through EDNO release. These findings support the hypothesis that endothelin may play a role in modulation of high basal pulmonary vascular resistance in the normal fetus.
D D Ivy, J P Kinsella, S H Abman