Endogenous Endothelin-1 and Femoral Artery Shear Rate: Impact of Age and Implications for Atherosclerosis

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Aging, blood flow, endothelial function, shear stress


Background: Both altered shear rate and endothelin-1 (ET-1) are associated with the age-related development of atherosclerosis. However, the role of ET-1, a potent endogenous vasoconstrictor, in altering shear rate in humans, especially in the atherosclerotic-prone vasculature of the leg, is unknown. Therefore, this study examined the contribution of ET-1 to the age-related alterations in common femoral artery (CFA) shear rate.

Method: BQ-123, a specific endothelin type A (ETA) receptor antagonist, was infused into the CFA, and diameter and blood velocity were measured by Doppler ultrasound in young (n = 8, 24 ± 2 years) and old (n = 9, 70 ± 2 years) study participants.

Results and conclusion: The old had greater intima–media thickening in the CFA, indicative of a preatherogenic phenotype. Prior to infusion, the old study participants exhibited reduced mean shear rate (27 ± 3/s) compared with the young study participants (62 ± 9/s). This difference was likely driven by attenuated antegrade shear rate in the old as retrograde shear rate was similar in the young and old. Inhibition of ETA receptors, by BQ-123, increased leg blood flow in the old, but not in the young, abolishing age-related differences. Older study participants had a larger CFA (young: 0.82 ± 0.03 cm, old: 0.99 ± 0.03 cm) in which BQ-123 induced significant vasodilation (5.1 ± 1.0%), but had no such effect in the young (−0.8 ± 0.8%). Interestingly, despite the age-specific, BQ-123-induced increase in leg blood flow and CFA diameter, shear rate patterns remained largely unchanged. Therefore, ET-1, acting through the ETA receptors, exerts a powerful age-specific vasoconstriction. However, removal of this vasoconstrictor stimulus does not augment mean shear rate in the old.

Published In

Journal of Hypertension