Considerable controversy exists concerning the possible role of lead in the etiology of human hypertension. In animal studies, there is convincing evidence that lead alters cardiovascular responsiveness; rats drinking water containing 100 ppm lead develop a chronic, significant 15 to 20 mm Hg elevation in systolic blood pressure. Pressor responsiveness to catecholamines is enhanced in animals chronically exposed to lead, and the responsiveness of isolated vascular smooth muscle to adrenergic agonists is increased in rats with lead-induced hypertension. Experimental evidence suggests that alterations in the cellular mechanisms that regulate intracellular calcium concentration may contribute to the abnormal vascular function in lead-induced hypertension. Recent work in our laboratory indicates that increased vascular reactivity in genetic hypertension is associated with altered activity of the protein kinase C branch of the calcium messenger system. Contractile responses to lead in rabbit mesenteric artery are potentiated by activators (phorbol esters) of this enzyme complex, and a selective inhibitor of protein kinase C inhibited contractions induced by lead. Based on these results, it is proposed that a cellular component of the action of lead to increase vascular reactivity may relate to the role of protein kinase C in smooth muscle contraction.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
- Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis