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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The role of the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway in the arterial adaptation to simulated microgravity Hutchings, Simon Roderick


Orthostatic intolerance following exposure to simulated or actual microgravity is observed following spaceflight and extended periods of bed rest, and is not always associated with simultaneous hypotension. Differential adaptation of cephalic and caudal arterial vasculatures (as a result of removal of the normal hydrostatic gradient) is proposed as a potential mechanism underlying this phenomenon. A potential role for changes to the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway in such adaptations has been suggested, predominantly from previous in vitro studies; using an established model of simulated microgravity (head-down tilt; HDT). This thesis investigates whether findings in isolated vessels are reflected by in vivo measurements of cephalic and caudal vascular function. Using carotid or iliac artery flow normalized to mean arterial pressure as an index of cerebral or hind limb vascular conductance, autoregulatory cerebral vasodilatation in response to lower body negative pressure was found to be impaired following HDT. In addition, α¬1-adrenoceptor agonist-mediated vasoconstriction was decreased in the cerebral vasculature and increased in the peripheral and hind limb vasculature. Administration of acetylcholine or the non-selective nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibitor Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME) demonstrated a decreased contribution of NOS to cerebrovascular tone, but an increased contribution of NOS to peripheral vascular resistance and tone of the hind limb vasculature. Together with a lack of difference in the response to the selective inducible NOS (iNOS) inhibitor 1400W, these results suggest that differential adaptation of eNOS may account for the observed differences between control and HDT animals. Further investigation of the changes to the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway suggest that these changes are not associated with changes in eNOS expression, but may be related to altered activity of eNOS. Furthermore, the bioavailability (as measured by pharmacokinetic half life) or the vascular effector mechanisms (as measured by the haemodynamic response to exogenously administered nitric oxide) responsible for the effects of nitric oxide were also shown to be unaffected by HDT. These findings suggest that differential adaptation of the L-arginine/nitric oxide pathway may contribute to the inability to raise total peripheral resistance and impaired cerebral autoregulation following HDT, thereby representing a mechanism of orthostatic intolerance following exposure to microgravity.

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