Chronic hypoxia alters the function of NOS nerves in cerebral arteries of near-term fetal and adult sheep

Emmanuel M. Mbaku, Lubo Zhang, William J. Pearce, Sue P. Duckles, John Buchholz

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23 Scopus citations


In addition to adrenergic innervation, cerebral arteries also contain neuronal nitric oxide synthase (nNOS)-expressing nerves that augment adrenergic nerve function. We examined the impact of development and chronic high-altitude hypoxia (3,820 m) on nNOS nerve function in near-term fetal and adult sheep middle cerebral arteries (MCA). Electrical stimulation-evoked release of norepinephrine (NE) was measured with HPLC and electrochemical detection, whereas nitric oxide (NO) release was measured by chemiluminescence. An inhibitor of NO synthase, Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl ester (L-NAME), significantly inhibited stimulation-evoked NE release in MCA from normoxic fetal and adult sheep with no effect in MCA from hypoxic animals. Addition of the NO donor S-nitroso-N- acetyl-DL-penicillamine fully reversed the effect of L-NAME in MCA from normoxic animals with no effect in MCA from hypoxic animals. Electrical stimulation caused a significant increase in NO release in MCA from normoxic animals, an effect that was blocked by the neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, whereas there was no increase in NO release in MCA from hypoxic animals. Relative abundance of nNOS as measured by Western blot analysis was similar in normoxic fetal and adult MCA. However, after hypoxic acclimitization, nNOS levels dramatically declined in both fetal and adult MCA. These data suggest that the function of nNOS nerves declines during chronic high-altitude hypoxia, a functional change that may be related to a decline in nNOS protein levels.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)724-732
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Physiology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2003



  • Cerebrovascular circulation
  • Development and sympathetic nerve function
  • High-altitude hypoxemia
  • Neuronal nitric oxide synthase nerves
  • Norepinephrine release
  • Recombinant neuronal nitric oxide synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)

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