The Effects of Hypoxia on pHi in Porcine Coronary Artery Endothelium and Smooth Muscle
A Novel Method for Measurements in Endothelial Cells In Situ
Endothelium-dependent relaxation of porcine coronary arteries is attenuated under hypoxic conditions. Recent evidence also indicates that pHi may modulate the release of the endothelium-derived relaxing factor. We tested the hypothesis that hypoxia-induced attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation is mediated by alterations in pHi. We developed a novel method for loading surface cells, whereby endothelial cell pHi could be measured in situ on the intact porcine coronary artery. Endothelial cells of arterial ring segments were selectively loaded with the fluorescent indicator BCECF-AM. Differential loading of the endothelial cell layer was verified by confocal microscopy. pHi of the endothelial cells in situ and of endothelium-denuded arteries was measured with a Photon Technology International spectrofluorimeter. The functional integrity of the endothelium was assessed by the endothelium-dependent relaxation to substance P in a paired adjacent ring. In the experimental protocol for pHi measurements, preparations were perfused with a physiological bicarbonate buffer (pH 7.4), stimulated with KCl (29 mmol/L), and then subjected to hypoxia and reoxygenation. The mean basal pHi in endothelial cells on the intact six arteries was 6.92±0.07. Addition of KCl to the perfusion medium decreased (P=.025) pHi to 6.79±0.07. Subsequent bubbling with N2 increased (P=.009) pHi to 7.00±0.06, which was reversed by reoxygenation. In contrast to the in situ endothelium, pHi of the smooth muscle was not significantly altered from its basal value of 7.24±0.06 (n=5) by either KCl or hypoxia. This differential behavior corroborated the confocal data indicating differential dye loading. These data thus suggest that oxygen-sensitive alterations in pHi may be an important mechanism of signal transduction in endothelial cells.
Hypoxia is known to significantly alter endothelial cell–mediated arterial smooth muscle responses,1 2 3 4 5 which may be of major significance in coronary and carotid artery vasospasm. We have previously shown that endothelium-dependent relaxation to A23187, thrombin, substance P, and acetylcholine is severely attenuated in porcine coronary arteries under hypoxic conditions.4 Hypoxia-induced attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation is believed to occur at the level of the vascular endothelium, since relaxation induced by sodium nitroprusside (SNP), an endothelium-independent vasodilator, was unimpaired by hypoxia.4 5 The mechanism(s) underlying the sensitivity of endothelial function to oxygen is not known.
Recently, investigators have demonstrated that ischemia and hypoxia are associated with an influx of Na+ into red blood cells, cardiac myocytes, and capillary endothelial cells.6 7 8 This influx of Na+ is postulated to occur through activation of the Na+-H+ exchanger, which is stimulated by the switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism that occurs during hypoxia.6 8 Activation of the Na+-H+ exchanger results in intracellular alkalinization.9 pHi has been implicated in the flow-induced release of endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF)10 and in the sustained release of nitric oxide elicited by bradykinin in endothelium.11 Thus, it is plausible to suggest that alterations in pHi may be an important mechanism of signal transduction in endothelial cells.
The present study was designed to test the hypothesis that endothelium-dependent relaxation is modulated by hypoxia-induced alterations in pHi in endothelial and/or smooth muscle cells. We developed novel methodology to measure pHi in in situ endothelial cells of porcine coronary arterial ring segments. Using confocal microscopy, we have demonstrated that the pH-sensitive dye BCECF-AM can be selectively loaded into the surface cell layer and that ratiometric dye technology can be used to measure hypoxia-induced alterations in pHi. This is the first study to report hypoxia-induced alterations in pHi in endothelial and smooth muscle cells of an intact coronary artery.
Materials and Methods
Porcine hearts were obtained daily from a local slaughterhouse and transported to the laboratory immersed in ice-cold lactated Ringer's solution. Proximal left anterior descending coronary arterial rings were obtained by cutting 4-mm lengths of the artery perpendicular to the axis of blood flow. Vessel rings were suspended in 15-mL tissue baths and immersed in bicarbonate-buffered physiological saline solution (PSS) with the following composition (mmol/L): NaCl 118.3, NaHCO3 15.0, dextrose 11.1, KCl 4.7, MgSO4 1.2, KH2PO4 1.2, EDTA 0.026, and CaCl2 2.5. The pH of the bath solution was 7.4 when gassed with 95% O2/5% CO2 at 37°C. Arterial rings were allowed to equilibrate for at least 1 hour with an initial resting tension of 40 mN before any experiment was begun. A resting tension of 40 mN has been shown previously to set a length in the range for optimal force development in this tissue.12 At the end of the equilibration period, the viability of each preparation was evaluated by KCl-induced contraction. The maximal contractile response to KCl (80 mmol/L) was allowed to plateau, and the tissue was subsequently rinsed with PSS. This procedure was repeated until reproducible contractions were achieved. Endothelial function was assessed by the endothelium-dependent relaxation to substance P (0.01 μmol/L) in preparations submaximally contracted (≈0.9 maximal contractile response4 13 ) by 29 mmol/L KCl.
Measurement of pHi in Endothelium of Intact Porcine Coronary Ring Segments
One coronary ring was used in isometric tension studies to assess the viability and pharmacological responsiveness of the endothelium; the adjacent ring was used to measure pHi. The ring used in pHi experiments was cut open and sutured (endothelial side out) onto a U-shaped hook, which was connected to a polytetrafluoroethylene holder. The preparation was mounted in a 2.4-mL cuvette, which was placed in the sample compartment of a Photon Technology International spectrofluorimeter configured for front face measurement. Fluorescence intensity was measured at excitation wavelengths of 505 and 439 nm and an emission wavelength of 523 nm. The background or autofluorescence of the preparation was measured, and the endothelial cells of the intact coronary ring preparation were selectively loaded with BCECF-AM. This was accomplished by using a Hamilton syringe to selectively position a drop of 5 μmol/L BCECF-AM in PSS onto the endothelial cell surface of the mounted tissue. The endothelium-containing side of the artery was exposed for a 2-minute interval and rinsed with PSS. This was repeated six times. As will be documented below, this procedure loads surface cells, whether endothelial or smooth muscle, and will be referred to as the “surface cell loading protocol.”
pHi was measured in endothelial cells of intact coronary ring segments during hypoxia and subsequent reoxygenation. The tissue was continuously perfused with PSS maintained at 37°C and gassed with 95% O2/5% CO2 during normoxic conditions. Preparations were sequentially exposed to KCl (29 mmol/L), hypoxia, and reoxygenation. In the presence of 29 mmol/L KCl, hypoxia was induced by perfusing the tissue, for a period of at least 20 minutes, with PSS that was gassed with 95% N2/5% CO2. Measurements of the cuvette Po2 with an oxygen electrode yielded values in the range of 1% to 2% (7 to 14 mm Hg). It is worth noting that to achieve this level of hypoxia considerable care needs be taken with the perfusion to ensure no leakage of O2, particularly in terms of the perfusion tubing. These values are in the range of Po2 values achieved by bubbling of an open organ bath with N2 of ≈1%, as previously reported.4 Reoxygenation consisted of perfusing the tissue with the normoxic PSS in the presence of 29 mmol/L KCl.
Measurement of pHi in Coronary Artery Smooth Muscle
The coronary ring was everted, and the endothelium was removed by gently rubbing the ring on a piece of filter paper. The preparation was placed on a U-shaped hook and incubated in PSS for 1 hour. At the end of the equilibration period, the U-shaped hook was connected to a polytetrafluoroethylene holder and placed in a 2.4-mL cuvette. The tissue was oriented perpendicular to the beam of light for front face measurements in the spectrofluorimeter. The autofluorescence of the preparation was then measured. For some experiments (Figs 1 and 2⇓⇓, Table), only the surface smooth muscle layer was loaded using the surface cell loading protocol described for endothelial cell loading in the previous section. When loading of all the smooth muscle layers of the denuded artery was desired, perfusion of the tissue in the cuvette was discontinued, and BCECF-AM (5 μmol/L) was added to the cuvette (incubation protocol; see Reference 14). Incubation with the dye was discontinued (generally <1 hour) when the 505 signal was at least 10 times the baseline, at which time the 439 signal was at least three times baseline. Perfusion of the tissue was reinitiated in order to wash out the unhydrolyzed BCECF. After a stable baseline was achieved, pHi was measured in tissues sequentially exposed to 29 mmol/L KCl, hypoxia, and reoxygenation.
All measurements in endothelial or smooth muscle cells were expressed as the following ratio: (fluorescence intensity at 505 nm minus background autofluorescence)/(fluorescence intensity at 439 nm minus background autofluorescence). Absolute values of pHi were calibrated using the high-K+ nigericin technique previously described.14 15 At the end of the experiment, nigericin (8 μmol/L) was added to the tissue, and a calibration curve was constructed using Na+-free, high-K+, MOPS-buffered solutions of known pH values (6.8 to 7.8). The ratio of fluorescence intensity at 505 and 439 nm minus the tissue autofluorescence was linearly related to pHi. A linear regression line for each individual tissue preparation was constructed and used to convert fluorescence intensity ratios to pHi values.
The endothelium of an intact artery was loaded with BCECF-AM as described. The artery was then cut into transverse strips ≈0.5 mm in width and placed in PSS for observation. Images were made with a Bio-Rad MRC-600 confocal imaging system mounted on a Nikon Diaphot inverted microscope equipped for epifluorescence illumination (College of Medicine, confocal microscope facility). Laser excitation (488 nm) was used to excite the fluorescence with sufficient white light to distinguish the tissue from background. These preparations were not fixed or mounted, but conditions were similar to those used in our spectrofluorimeter. Both luminal and transverse images were obtained by rotating the specimen 90°. After one set of images was obtained, the preparation was denuded of endothelium, and further images were taken. As a control, in a paired artery segment, the endothelium was first denuded, and the dye was loaded into the smooth muscle layer using an identical loading procedure. After a set of images was obtained, this preparation was subjected to the same gentle rubbing procedures and a sham denudation, and further images were obtained.
The following drugs were used: substance P and nigericin (Sigma Chemical Co), BCECF-AM (Molecular Probes), and ammonium chloride (Matheson Coleman & Bell Manufacturing Chemists). Nigericin was dissolved in ethanol and BCECF-AM in dimethyl sulfoxide. All other drugs were dissolved in distilled water. All concentrations represent final bath concentrations.
Data Analysis and Statistics
pHi responses were expressed as mean±SEM, and the difference between the means was analyzed by two-way ANOVA with the Bonferroni method used to test pairwise comparisons. In each protocol, experiments were performed on coronary arteries from at least five hearts. Changes were deemed significant at a value of P<.05.
Confocal Microscopic Assessment of the Differential Dye Loading Protocol
We used confocal microscopy to validate our protocol for loading surface cells. Fig 1⇑ shows transverse (left images) and luminal (right images) views of an artery subjected to our endothelial cell loading protocol. Panel I (the upper four images) presents confocal images of an intact artery in which the dye was loaded into the endothelium. The upper two images of panel I show a strong fluorescence limited to a narrow luminal band. The luminal surface of this preparation was then rubbed to remove the endothelium. The lower two images of panel I show little remaining fluorescence in the artery denuded of endothelium, despite the higher gain of the instrument. Note that in white light as shown, the internal elastica is seen as the curly light band just inside the luminal surface. When viewed only with 488-nm laser excitation, the view is uniformly dark (data not shown). The loss of fluorescence after removal of the endothelium suggests that the dye was primarily loaded into the endothelial cell layer.
As a control, panel II of Fig 1⇑ (lower four images) shows confocal images from a paired artery segment that was first denuded of endothelium by gentle rubbing and then subjected to the same dye loading protocol used to load the endothelium (panel I). The fluorescence again was seen to be limited to a luminal band (panel II). In contrast to the intact artery (compare lower two images of panels I and II), rubbing these smooth muscle preparations did not affect the strong fluorescence in the luminal region (lower two images of panel II). Dye loaded into the smooth muscle layer could not be removed by the rubbing procedure used in the standard endothelium denudation. Thus, if there was significant loading of the dye into the subendothelial layer of smooth muscle in the intact artery, fluorescence would not be eliminated by rubbing. Since rubbing abolished the fluorescence of the endothelium-loaded artery (see lower two images of panel I), the confocal microscopic evidence indicates that our dye loading protocol is specific for endothelium. This is supported by the following functional data. These images were typical of four such experiments.
pHi Measurement in Endothelial Cells of Intact Porcine Coronary Ring Segments
We performed the following control experiments to estimate the percentage of the fluorescent signal attributed to dye loaded into the endothelium compared with dye potentially loaded into the underlying smooth muscle. The average fluorescence intensities of the in situ endothelial cells under various conditions are presented in the Table⇓. Endothelial cells of an intact coronary artery were selectively loaded with BCECF-AM (Fig 2⇑) middle records (a) as described in “Materials and Methods.” After we loaded the endothelial cells, the pHi-sensitive 505-nm excitation signal increased by 77%, and the near pHi-insensitive 439-nm signal increased by 19%. The signal-to-noise ratio of the fluorescence intensities, measured at an emission of 523 nm, was more than sufficient for measurement and calibration of pHi (see Figs 2 and 3⇑⇓).
To functionally assess our surface cell loading protocol for selective loading of BCECF-AM (see “Materials and Methods”) into the endothelial cell layer of an intact artery, we used the intracellular alkalinizing agent NH4Cl (30 mmol/L) as a tool to perturb pHi. Fig 2⇑, top panel, shows the individual emission (523-nm) intensities for excitations at 439 nm (a pH-insensitive wavelength) and 505 nm. Fig 2⇑, bottom panel, shows the ratio of these intensities, calibrated in pHi units. In order to verify that the observed alkalinization was attributed to alterations in pHi in the endothelium, the tissue was denuded, the remaining fluorescence at the appropriate excitation wavelengths (505 and 439 nm) was measured, and the underlying smooth muscle was reexposed to NH4Cl. It can be noted that a considerable decrease in the fluorescence intensities was observed upon removal of the endothelium (bottom record of Fig 2⇑, top panel) and that little response to NH4Cl can be seen in the denuded preparation (bottom record of Fig 2⇑, bottom panel). After denudation of the endothelium, the fluorescence intensities at 439 nm and 505 nm represented 104.0±2.5% and 120.4±5.7% (n=5), respectively, of the background or autofluorescence measured at the beginning of the experiment before dye loading. It was determined that the response to NH4Cl after denudation (n=5) represented 22.0±4.9% of the response observed in endothelium-intact rings. The subsequent lack (in some cases) or attenuation of response to NH4Cl, in the same tissue once it was denuded, was taken as functional evidence that the endothelial cells had been selectively loaded. In order to demonstrate that the diminished response to NH4Cl in denuded tissues was not the result of damage to the smooth muscle cells incurred during removal of the endothelium, the underlying smooth muscle was reloaded with BCECF-AM using our surface cell loading protocol, and the response to NH4Cl was measured (Fig 2⇑, upper records). The surface smooth muscle layer retained its capacity for dye loading, and intracellular alkalinization was observed upon exposure to NH4Cl.
On the basis of these control experiments, we estimate that at least 78±4.9% of the measured fluorescence signal is attributed to dye loaded into the endothelium. The remaining signal as detected by exposure to NH4Cl in denuded tissues may represent (1) small changes in orientation or position of the tissue in the light path, (2) dye penetration into the underlying smooth muscle layer, (3) incomplete endothelial denudation, and/or (4) changes in autofluorescence of the smooth muscle layer. During the present study, we developed protocols that permitted the removal and replacement of the preparation in the fluorimeter with minimal alterations in fluorescence signal; any differences were less than the noise in the intensity ratio (see Figs 2 and 3⇑⇑). This implied that changes in orientation were minimal. However, because of the care taken to keep the orientation of the tissue constant, the endothelium may not have been completely removed during the denudation process. We believe that this is the most likely explanation for the small residual response to NH4Cl. In subsequent experiments (below), the basal pHi and magnitudes of responses differ in endothelial and smooth muscle cells, further validating the selectivity of our differential loading protocols.
Effects of Hypoxia and Reoxygenation on pHi in In Situ Endothelial Cells
The purpose of the present study was to determine if alterations in pHi may have contributed to the reported inhibition by hypoxia of endothelium-dependent relaxation in porcine coronary artery.4 13 We showed that 29 mmol/L KCl produced a stable near-maximal contraction in this preparation. Hypoxia caused a 50% decrease in isometric force, which was reversible upon reoxygenation4 13 ; see also Fig 5, top⇓. This decrease in force was similar in intact and denuded arteries.
In order to parallel these previously reported functional studies, pHi was measured in arteries stimulated with KCl (29 mmol/L) and then subjected to hypoxia and reoxygenation. A typical record illustrating the effects of hypoxia and reoxygenation on pHi is shown in Fig 3⇑. The average data for pHi in in situ endothelial cells from six arteries is summarized in Fig 4⇓. The mean basal pHi was 6.92±0.07. Addition of KCl to the perfusion medium significantly decreased pHi. Under hypoxic conditions over a period of ≈20 minutes, pHi increased to a steady state value of 7.00 (P=.009). Upon reoxygenation, pHi decreased to 6.91 (P=.011). These are the first known measurements of oxygen-sensitive alterations in pHi in endothelial cells of an intact coronary ring segment.
Effects of Hypoxia and Reoxygenation on pHi in Porcine Coronary Smooth Muscle
In a parallel experimental protocol, pHi was measured in the smooth muscle of endothelium-denuded coronary arteries, loaded by incubation with BCECF. A typical experimental record is shown in Fig 5⇓, and the average steady state data for five arteries are summarized in Fig 4B⇑. In contrast to the endothelium, neither KCl nor hypoxia had any significant effect on smooth muscle pHi (P<.05, two-way ANOVA). The mean basal pHi was 7.24±0.06. With KCl stimulation, the steady state pHi was unchanged. In contrast to the endothelial cell response, there was little change in smooth muscle pHi in the steady state under hypoxic conditions. In total, the effects of hypoxia on coronary artery smooth muscle pHi were small and not significant. Thus, pHi is unlikely to be a factor in the relaxation of this smooth muscle to hypoxia.
This is the first study to measure alterations in pHi in endothelial cells of an intact coronary ring segment. We have demonstrated selective loading of the endothelium of an intact tissue with BCECF-AM. Using confocal microscopy, we demonstrated that an intense fluorescence was limited to a narrow luminal band after subjecting an endothelium-intact artery to our loading procedure. Removal of the endothelium by gentle rubbing abolished this fluorescence. Moreover, when the smooth muscle of an endothelium-denuded artery was subjected to the same dye-loading procedure, only surface cells were loaded. Moreover, rubbing the artery in a similar fashion did not eliminate the fluorescence. If substantial loading into a luminal smooth muscle layer occurred during our loading procedure in an endothelium-intact preparation, one would expect significant residual fluorescence after rubbing. This evidence for selective loading was further supported by functional evidence indicating differential pHi responses of endothelium and smooth muscle measured in the spectrofluorimeter.
The estimated fluorescence signal attributed to dye contained in the in situ endothelium was at least 78% of the total measured signal. We investigated several potential causes that may have accounted for the remaining 22% of the fluorescence signal observed during control experiments: (1) small changes in orientation or position of the tissue in the light path, (2) dye penetration into the underlying smooth muscle layer, (3) incomplete endothelial denudation, and (4) contributions of changes in autofluorescence of the smooth muscle layer. The most likely cause is that not all of the loaded endothelial cells were removed during the denudation process, since extreme care had to be taken in order to ensure that the position and orientation of the sutured ring preparation were unaltered.
Since pHi was measured in intact and denuded ring preparations, it was possible to distinguish between alterations in pHi observed in endothelial versus smooth muscle cells. The basal pHi values and responses to KCl, hypoxia, and reoxygenation were quantitatively different in intact versus denuded preparations. Other investigators have reported basal pHi values ranging from 6.78 to 7.26 in cultured endothelial cells in the absence and presence of bicarbonate.10 16 17 In the present study, the mean basal pHi in endothelial cells (n=6 arteries) in situ was 6.92±0.07; the mean pHi in smooth muscle cells (n=18 arteries) was 7.21±0.02. As with all studies using fluorescent dyes, the accuracy of absolute calibration is dependent on several assumptions. It has been reported18 that BCECF has a heterogeneous distribution in sea urchin eggs, and this type of compartmentation could lead to an underestimate of pHi. Less is known about compartmentation in mammalian cells. For these reasons, changes in pHi rather than the absolute values would appear to carry more weight.
Addition of KCl to the perfusion medium tended to decrease pHi in endothelial cells but did not alter pHi in denuded preparations. Although it is not possible to completely rule out a contribution of the underlying smooth muscle to the remaining 22% of the fluorescent signal, the differences in response of endothelial cells and smooth muscle support our confocal microscopy data (Fig 1⇑), indicating that the measurements made after our endothelium-selective loading protocol primarily reflect changes in pHi in the endothelium.
This new technique allowed us to assess the effects of hypoxia on pHi in in situ endothelial cells. We have shown that in the presence of KCl, hypoxia caused significant increases in pHi. This was somewhat unexpected, since hypoxia is associated with increased lactate production due to the utilization of anaerobic glycolysis. The basis for this alkalinization is unknown and likely many faceted. Recently, investigators have demonstrated that ischemia and hypoxia are associated with an influx of Na+ into red blood cells, cardiac myocytes, and capillary endothelial cells.6 7 8 This influx of Na+ is postulated to occur through activation of the Na+-H+ exchanger, which is stimulated by the switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism that occurs during hypoxia.6 8 Activation of the Na+-H+ exchanger could result in intracellular alkalinization.9 In the case of the coronary artery smooth muscle, we have reported that hypoxia decreased the phosphocreatine content,19 which could also account for an increase in pHi. Clearly pHi regulatory mechanisms must also be involved to compensate for the known increase in lactate production in both endothelial and smooth muscle cells under hypoxic conditions.19 20 21 22 It is worth noting that cyanide treatment (which, similar to hypoxia, increases lactate production) has also been reported to be associated with an increase in pHi in the smooth muscle of rat portal vein as determined by nuclear magnetic resonance techniques.23
The intracellular alkalinization measured in endothelial cells in this study corresponds temporally with attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation previously reported in this same preparation under hypoxic conditions.4 It is not possible, however, to make an exact comparison of time courses. This is due to the fact that the relaxation of an intact artery reflects an average response over all smooth muscle layers, whereas pHi measurements for both endothelium and smooth muscle reflect only those in the outer layers. Our evidence does suggest that intracellular alkalinization may be one possible factor contributing to our previously reported attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation by hypoxia.4
The mechanism by which hypoxia and/or intracellular alkalinization could modulate endothelial function is unclear. Other investigators have examined the role of cyclooxygenase products, interruption of the cGMP pathway, and inhibition of oxidative metabolism as possible mechanisms for hypoxia-induced attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation.4 5 24 25 Since it is known that endothelium-dependent vasodilators, such as thrombin, release prostacyclin as well as EDRF and that this release is markedly attenuated during conditions when oxygen concentrations are limited, it is possible that attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation during hypoxia is the result of decreased release and/or synthesis of cyclooxygenase products.24 However, Hashimoto et al4 have demonstrated that the inhibition of endothelium-mediated relaxation, in the presence of hypoxia, was not due to attenuation of the action of cyclooxygenase products, such as prostacyclin, because relaxation to A23187, thrombin, and substance P was unaffected by exposure to indomethacin, a cyclooxygenase inhibitor. This finding suggests that hypoxia is affecting the synthesis, release, and/or pathway of action of nitric oxide.
EDRF-mediated smooth muscle relaxation is known to occur through the activation of a soluble guanylate cyclase, which causes an increase in smooth muscle cGMP.26 Johns et al5 have shown, in rabbit pulmonary artery, that hypoxia decreased basal levels of cGMP and prevented endothelium-mediated increases but did not affect increases in cGMP induced by SNP. These data suggest that hypoxia exerts its effect proximal to the activation of guanylate cyclase, since SNP-induced increases in cGMP were unaffected by hypoxia. This is consistent with the lack of effects of hypoxia on SNP relaxation of coronary artery smooth muscle4 and with the relatively minor effects of hypoxia on smooth muscle pHi seen in the present study.
It is also likely that hypoxia may inhibit the basal release of EDRF, since basal levels of cGMP were reduced.5 Alternatively, the effect of hypoxia may be related to the inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation that occurs during limited oxygen supply. Griffith et al25 have shown that endothelium-dependent relaxation, in rabbit aortic strip preparations, is attenuated by inhibitors of oxidative phosphorylation. In order to determine whether hypoxia-induced inhibition of oxidative phosphorylation was responsible for attenuation of endothelium-mediated responses in porcine coronary arteries, Hashimoto et al4 treated preparations with the metabolic inhibitor cyanide (5 mmol/L), and the relaxation response to A23187, thrombin, and substance P was measured during in vitro isometric tension studies. In the presence of cyanide, the relaxation response to these endothelium-dependent vasodilators was unaltered, suggesting that the hypoxia-induced switch to anaerobic metabolism was not the cause of attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation in porcine coronary arteries. These studies illustrate that hypoxia-induced attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation is not the result of inhibition of the action of cyclooxygenase products, the activation of the cGMP pathway, or oxidative metabolism per se. However, we have demonstrated that hypoxia is associated with increases in pHi that correspond temporally with attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation of porcine coronary arteries. Thus, alterations in pHi may be an important component of signal transduction in endothelial cells.
The present study focused on the cellular level effects of hypoxia, defined here by bubbling with N2. The resultant Po2 of 1 to 2 mm Hg would be severe hypoxia but is comparable to that used in previous studies of the effects of hypoxia on endothelial-vascular interactions. In this range, endothelial cell mitochondria would not be expected to be oxygen-limited. Oxygen consumption by the deeper smooth muscle layers on the other hand would likely render these layers anoxic and inhibit their mitochondria. Under severe hypoxia, when other mechanisms, such as those mediated by adenosine are maximized at the resistance vessel level, it is likely that the epicardial arteries may play a role in the regulation of flow. Thus, the mechanisms under these conditions may be of physiological significance to cardiac function.
We have demonstrated the feasibility of measurement of pHi in endothelial cells in situ in intact coronary ring segments by using ratiometric fluorescent dye technology. This approach offers the potential for measurement of other intracellular ions in endothelial cells in situ. Moreover, it provides a methodology for assessing the effects of in situ contact with vascular smooth muscle on endothelial cell response, which is not possible using conventional measurements on cultured endothelial cells. Using this approach, we have shown that hypoxia elicits an alkalinization in endothelial cells in situ. This alkalinization may play an important modulatory role in the attenuation of endothelium-dependent relaxation observed under hypoxic conditions as well as other conditions, such as metabolic alkalosis.
This study was supported by National Institutes of Health grants HL-23240 and TG32 HL-07571 and American Heart Association Grant-in-Aid 92007130. We thank Peggy Sue Bowman and Jianyi Li for their skillful technical assistance.
- Received February 23, 1996.
- Accepted October 11, 1996.
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