Endogenous carbon monoxide is an endothelial-derived vasodilator factor in the mesenteric circulation.
Chronic hypoxia (CH) is associated with both blunted agonist-induced and myogenic vascular reactivity, possibly due to an enhanced production of heme oxygenase (HO)-derived carbon monoxide (CO). However, the cellular location of the HO responsible for these effects has not been clearly established. Therefore, we examined the response to administration of the substrate for HO, heme-l-lysinate (HLL), in endothelium-intact and endothelium-denuded small mesenteric arteries from CH male Sprague-Dawley rats. Mesenteric arteries were isolated and mounted on glass cannulas, pressurized to 60 mmHg, and superfused with physiological saline solution. All experiments were performed in the presence of 100 microM N(omega)-nitro-l-arginine. The vasodilator response to HLL or exogenous CO was examined. HLL experiments were performed in the presence and absence of the HO inhibitor zinc protoporphyrin IX (ZnPPIX). HLL administration resulted in a dose-dependent vasodilator response that was abolished in the presence of ZnPPIX or by endothelial removal. Exogenous CO produced a vasodilator response that was independent of an intact endothelium. Cellular localization of HO was verified through immunohistochemistry in sections of the gut and aorta from CH and control animals. Staining for HO-1, HO-2, and endothelial nitric oxide synthase was confined to the endothelium. Thus we conclude that CO is a product of HO located within the endothelium.