Enhanced hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction in hypertension

M. D. Guazzi, M. Alimento, M. Berti, C. Fiorentini, C. Galli, G. Tamborini

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this study, we tested the hypothesis that hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction may be enhanced in systemic hypertension. The hypothesis took origin from the following two considerations: alveolar hypoxia constricts the pulmonary vessels by enhancing the Ca2+ penetration across sarcolemma of the smooth muscle cells and systemic high blood pressure is associated with an elevation of tone and reactivity of the lung vessels, which seems to depend on an excessive cytosol free Ca2+ concentration due to alterations in sodium handling and in the Na+ -Ca2+ exchange system. These considerations suggest the possibility that the disorders in the biochemistry of smooth muscle contraction in hypertension facilitate the rise of cytosol Ca2+ concentration during alveolar hypoxia, thus resulting in a potentiation of the vasoconstrictor properties of this stimulus. In 43 hypertensive and 17 normotensive men, pulmonary arteriolar resistance has been evaluated during air respiration and after 15 minutes of breathing 17%, 15%, and 12% oxygen in nitrogen. Curves relating changes in pulmonary arteriolar resistance to oxygen breathing contents had similar configuration in the two populations but in hypertension were steeper and significantly shifted to the left, reflecting a lower threshold and an enhanced reactivity. This pattern was not related to differences in severity of the hypoxic stimulus, plasma catecholamine concentration, or hypocapnia and respiratory alkalosis induced by hypoxia and probably was not mediated through α-receptor activation. Calcium channel blockade with nifedipine was able to almost abolish both the normotensive and the hypertensive pulmonary vasoconstricting reaction. These findings support the hypothesis that hypoxic pulmonary vasoconstriction may be enhanced in systemic hypertension. As to the mechanism of this effect, findings are consistent with the interpretation that hypoxic vasomotion is mediated by an increased availability of calcium ions for the contractile elements of the lung vessels, which is facilitated with hypertension. The association of high blood pressure with enhanced pulmonary vasoreactivity to alveolar hypoxia could have clinical implications in patients who are chronically and have systemic hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)337-343
Number of pages7
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1989

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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