Date of Award


Degree Type

Restricted Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences

First Advisor

Patricia A. Gwirtz

Second Advisor

Peter B. Raven

Third Advisor

James L. Caffrey


Introduction. Background. Coronary circulation during exercise. Coronary blood flow is regulated primarily by local metabolic mechanisms according to the oxygen and nutrient needs of the heart (2, 4, 19). The local “metabolic signal” involves vasoactive metabolites, such as adenosine, released from myocytes in direct proportion to myocardial work (Figure 1). However, other external factors are superimposed on local regulatory mechanisms and can substantially modulate coronary blood flow. One of these modulatory factors is the sympathetic nervous system. Sympathetic vasoconstriction mediated by α-adrenergic receptors in the coronary circulation has been shown to oppose metabolic vasodilation and limit oxygen supply to the myocardium during physiologic and pathophysiological cardiac stresses, such as exercise and myocardial hypoperfusion (1, 6, 7, 8, 10-14, 17, 18, 21). This limitation on myocardial oxygenation appears to impose a restriction on the increase in regional left ventricular subendocardial contractile function during submaximal exercise (7). In this regard, studies have shown that removing this α1-constrictor tone leads to an increase in coronary blood flow and, as a result, regional contractile function (8). This adrenergic coronary constriction during exercise is mediated by neutrally released norepinephrine, not by circulating catecholamines (8). Endothelial-mediated control of coronary vascular tone. Recent investigations indicate that another factor involved in modulating coronary blood flow is the vascular endothelium. The endothelium exerts an influence on vascular smooth muscle vasomotor tone by releasing an endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF) or nitric oxide (NO), which is derived from the amino acid L-arginine by nitric oxide synthase (5, 22). Synthesized NO diffuses into the underlying vascular smooth muscle to activate cytosolic guanylate cyclase (GC), thereby stimulating the intracellular accumulation of cyclic GMP (cGMP). This is illustrated in Figure 2. NO is released by the stimulation of muscarinic receptors on endothelial cells by acetylcholine, as well as by other agonists or physical stimuli (e.g., shear stress) at the interface between blood and endothelial cell surface (15). During exercise, for example, the work output of the normal heart may increase several-fold by the stimulation of sympathetic nerves to heart. The increased work output of the heart increases myocardial oxygen demand. Consequently, the coronary circulation undergoes vasodilation due to local metabolic mechanisms. The elevation in shear stress caused by increases in coronary blood flow triggers release of NO from the endothelium because of the extremely pulsatile nature of the flow. Therefore, it is likely that during exercise, release of NO by shear stress and by neurohormonal stimuli, concomitant with local release of metabolites, contributes to coronary dilation. These vasodilatory influences counteract a sympathetic α-adrenergic coronary constriction, which limits the increase in coronary blood flow and cardiac performance. Accordingly, coronary vascular smooth muscle tone during exercise is modulated by the endothelium, which responds to the increased shear stress and adrenergic stimulation, which provides the major extrinsic input.


W 4 K49R 1995