Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), one of the synthetic L- arginine analogues with inhibitory effects of nitric oxide (NO) synthesis, is now widely used to examine the role of NO in various organs. We and others demonstrated that longterm treatment with L-NAME causes hypertension and cardiovascular lesions (perivascular fibrosis and medial thickening), especially at microvascular levels. However, convincing evidence is still lacking that these long-term cardiovascular effects of L-NAME are solely mediated by the inhibition of the synthesis of endothelium-derived NO (EDNO). This study was thus designed to better understand the effects of long-term treatment with L-NAME with special reference to EDNO synthesis. Male Wister- Kyoto rats were orally administered L-NAME for 8 weeks. Blood pressure significantly increased at 3 days and 1 and 8 weeks of the treatment. Endothelium-dependent relaxations to acetylcholine (ACh) of the aorta were reduced 3 days after the treatment, recovered at 1 week, and again reduced at 8 weeks, whereas the relaxations of the small mesenteric artery were unaltered throughout the experimental periods. At 8 weeks, indomethacin- sensitive, endothelium-dependent contractions to ACh were noted. The relative contributions of NO and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor also were unchanged. Citrulline assay demonstrated that substantial levels of constitutive NO synthase activity remained in the aorta during the experiments. The long-term treatment with L-NAME caused perivascular fibrosis and medial thickening, not only in the aorta but also in the mesenteric artery. These results suggest that mechanism(s) other than simple inhibition of EDNO synthesis is involved in the long-term cardiovascular effects of L- NAME in the rat mesenteric artery.
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