Adult rats are more sensitive to the vascular effects induced by hyperhomocysteinemia than young rats.
In humans, increased plasma homocysteine (Hcy) has been shown to be correlated with occlusive arterial diseases and atherosclerosis. Studies of isolated conductance vessels of experimental animals suggest that Hcy may interfere with local vasoregulatory mechanisms, yet the effect of hyperhomocysteinemia (HHcy) on the function of microvessels, such as skeletal muscle arterioles, has not been investigated. Male Wistar rats were divided into 2 groups: control rats (C; plasma Hcy, 7.1+/-0.3 micromol/L; n=25), and rats made HHcy by 1 g/kg body weight daily intake of methionine in the drinking water for 4 weeks (plasma Hcy, 23.6+/-2.9 micromol/L; P<0.01 versus C; n=25). First-order arterioles ( approximately 130 micrometer in diameter) were isolated from gracilis muscle, cannulated, and pressurized (80 mm Hg, no-flow conditions). Changes in diameter were observed by videomicroscopy. Arteriolar constrictions to norepinephrine (NE; 3x10(-7) mol/L) were significantly (P<0.01) greater in HHcy compared with C rats (C, 37.7+/-4.9%; HHcy, 59.5+/-5. 2%). Removal of the endothelium (-E) augmented NE-induced constrictions only in arterioles from C rats, whereas it had no effect on responses of arterioles from HHcy rats (C-E, 55.9+/-6.9%; HHcy-E, 56.5+/-7.0%). Dilations to cumulative doses of acetylcholine (ACh; 10(-8) mol/L) were significantly reduced in arterioles from HHcy rats (C, 64.0+/-5.2%; HHcy, 24.1+/-6.8%). Inhibition of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis with N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA; 10(-4) mol/L) significantly decreased ACh-induced dilations of C arterioles, whereas it did not affect HHcy arterioles. Similar alterations were found in arteriolar dilations to histamine, another known NO-dependent agonist. Endothelium-independent dilations to the NO donor sodium nitroprusside were not different in arterioles from C and HHcy rats, either in the presence or absence of L-NNA. Presence of superoxide dismutase and catalase (scavenger of reactive oxygen metabolites) did not affect HHcy-induced alterations in the ACh response. We conclude that hyperhomocysteinemia reduces rat skeletal muscle arteriolar dilations in response to ACh and histamine, and enhances constrictions to NE, alterations that are likely to be caused by the reduced mediation of these responses by NO. The reduced activity of NO in arterioles may contribute to the microvascular impairment described in HHcy.