To determine the effects of chronic intrauterine pulmonary hypertension on the perinatal pulmonary circulation, we induced chronic elevations of pulmonary artery pressure in 24 late-gestation fetal lambs by maintaining partial compression of the ductus arteriosus with an inflatable vascular occluder. Pulmonary artery pressure was increased from 44 +/- 1 to 62 +/- 3 mmHg for 3-14 d. Although left pulmonary artery blood flow initially increased during acute partial ductus compression, the increase in flow was not sustained during chronic ductus compression despite persistent elevations of pulmonary artery pressure (P less than 0.01). Chronic hypertension decreased the slope of the pressure-flow relationship from 3.4 +/- 0.3 (initial) to 0.9 +/- 0.1 ml/min per mmHg, and blunted the fetal pulmonary vascular response to small increases in PO2 (P less than 0.0001). Pulmonary hypertension for greater than 8 d increased the wall thickness of small pulmonary arteries (P less than 0.001). Compared with controls, hypertensive animals had higher pulmonary artery pressure, lower pulmonary blood flow, and predominant right-to-left ductus shunting after cesarean-section delivery (P less than 0.0001). We conclude that chronic pulmonary hypertension in utero, in the absence of hypoxemia or sustained increases in blood flow, causes abnormal fetal pulmonary vasoreactivity, structural remodeling, and the failure to achieve the normal decline in pulmonary resistance at birth.
Progression of pulmonary hypertension is associated with increased proliferation and migration of pulmonary vascular smooth muscle cells. PDGF is a potent mitogen and involved in this process. We now report that the PDGF receptor antagonist STI571 (imatinib) reversed advanced pulmonary vascular disease in 2 animal models of pulmonary hypertension. In rats with monocrotaline-induced pulmonary hypertension, therapy with daily administration of STI571 was started 28 days after induction of the disease. A 2-week treatment resulted in 100% survival, compared with only 50% in sham-treated rats. The changes in RV pressure, measured continuously by telemetry, and right heart hypertrophy were reversed to near-normal levels. STI571 prevented phosphorylation of the PDGF receptor and suppressed activation of downstream signaling pathways. Similar results were obtained in chronically hypoxic mice, which were treated with STI571 after full establishment of pulmonary hypertension. Moreover, expression of the PDGF receptor was found to be significantly increased in lung tissue from pulmonary arterial hypertension patients compared with healthy donor lung tissue. We conclude that STI571 reverses vascular remodeling and cor pulmonale in severe experimental pulmonary hypertension regardless of the initiating stimulus. This regimen offers a unique novel approach for antiremodeling therapy in progressed pulmonary hypertension.
Chronic hypoxia induces pulmonary vascular remodeling, leading to pulmonary hypertension, right ventricular hypertrophy, and heart failure. Heterozygous deficiency of hypoxia-inducible factor–1α (HIF-1α), which mediates the cellular response to hypoxia by increasing expression of genes involved in erythropoiesis and angiogenesis, has been previously shown to delay hypoxia-induced pulmonary hypertension. HIF-2α is a homologue of HIF-1α and is abundantly expressed in the lung, but its role in pulmonary hypertension remains unknown. Therefore, we analyzed the pulmonary response of WT and viable heterozygous HIF-2α–deficient (Hif2α+/–) mice after exposure to 10% O2for 4 weeks. In contrast to WT mice,Hif2α+/–mice were fully protected against pulmonary hypertension and right ventricular hypertrophy, unveiling a critical role of HIF-2α in hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular remodeling. Pulmonary expression levels of endothelin-1 and plasma catecholamine levels were increased threefold and 12-fold respectively in WT but not inHif2α+/–mice after hypoxia, suggesting that HIF-2α–mediated upregulation of these vasoconstrictors contributes to the development of hypoxic pulmonary vascular remodeling.
Persistent pulmonary hypertension of the newborn (PPHN) is associated with chronic intrauterine events. Acute nitric oxide (NO) inhibition attenuates the normal increase in pulmonary blood flow at birth. We investigated whether chronic NO inhibition in utero causes persistent pulmonary hypertension. 11 fetal lambs received either a continuous infusion of N omega-nitro-L-arginine (an NO synthesis inhibitor) or 0.9% saline. Before infusion, acetylcholine (dependent upon endogenous NO production) and sodium nitroprusside (which releases its own NO) produced potent pulmonary vasodilation. After 10.5 +/- 1.5 d of infusion, acetylcholine did not produce pulmonary vasodilation in N omega-nitric-L-arginine-treated fetal lambs, but did in saline-treated fetal lambs; sodium nitroprusside produced pulmonary vasodilation in both groups. Immediately after birth, at 140 d of gestation, during the 3-h study period, mean pulmonary arterial pressure did not decrease in N omega-nitro-L-arginine-treated lambs; the increase in pulmonary blood flow and decrease in pulmonary vascular resistance were markedly attenuated compared to saline-treated lambs. These hemodynamic derangements were reversed by L-arginine. There were no anatomic abnormalities in the pulmonary circulation. Chronic NO inhibition in utero reproduces many of the physiologic derangements of PPHN. Intrauterine events which result in endothelial dysfunction and inhibition of NO may produce the physiologic derrangements of PPHN.
Hypoxia is a well-recognized stimulus for pulmonary blood vessel remodeling and pulmonary hypertension development. One mechanism that may account for these effects is the direct action of hypoxia on the expression of specific genes involved in vascular smooth muscle cell (SMC) proliferation. Previous studies demonstrated that the serotonin (5-hydroxytryptamine; 5-HT) transporter (5-HTT) mediates the mitogenic activity of 5-HT in pulmonary vascular SMCs and is overexpressed during hypoxia. Thus, 5-HT-related mitogenic activity is increased during hypoxia. Here, we report that mice deficient for 5-HTT (5-HTT–/–) developed less hypoxic pulmonary hypertension and vascular remodeling than paired5-HTT+/+controls. When maintained under normoxia,5-HTT–/–-mutant mice had normal hemodynamic parameters, low blood 5-HT levels, deficient platelet 5-HT uptake, and unchanged blood levels of 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid, a metabolite of 5-HT. After exposure to 10% O2for 2 or 5 weeks, the number and medial wall thickness of muscular pulmonary vessels were reduced in hypoxic5-HTT–/–mice as compared with wild-type paired controls. Concomitantly, right ventricular systolic pressure was lower and right ventricle hypertrophy less marked in the mutant mice. This occurred despite potentiation of acute hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction in the5-HTT–/–mice. These data further support a key role of 5-HTT in hypoxia-induced pulmonary vascular SMC proliferation and pulmonary hypertension.