Evidence from investigations of brain microcirculation (pial arterioles) reveals at least 3 different endothelium (EC) dependent mechanisms for dilation. Only one of the three can be triggered by acetylcholine (ACh) and in this vascular bed it is only this path that is dependent upon endothelial nitric oxide synthase (NOS) which produces nitric oxide (NO) from arginine. In this vascular bed the ACh sensitive path cannot be triggered by bradykinin (BK). This state of affairs appears to differ from that found in other beds or in endothelium cultured from conductance vessels. In the cerebral microcirculation there is considerable pharmacological evidence that the endothelium derived relaxing factor (EDRF) for ACh is not NO itself but may contain NO. In many experimental vascular settings the release of the NOS dependent EDRF is shear dependent. In the cerebral microcirculation there are several studies suggesting, in vivo, that this is correct. Among these are the following: (1) vessels narrow when shear is reduced after carotid ligation, and remain so along with unresponsiveness to ACh for at least ten minutes following resumption of flow. This may be important in developing stroke. The collapse is not passive due to low pressure. We know this because the narrowed vessels with their low intraluminal shear and pressure are still capable of large dilation by the NO donor, sodium nitroprusside; (2) the antiplatelet effects of EC which are mediated, in part, by the EDRF for ACh are enhanced for 10 to 20 minutes following the transient increase and return of shear within these vessels. If the reverse is also true, reductions of shear may have important harmful proaggregant effects on platelets (and leukocytes) in the microvascular bed of developing infarcts. However most of the cited work depends upon pharmacological inhibitors of NOS to "prove" that NOS and an EDRF/NO are involved. In the last three years evidence in cats and rats shows that many of the NOS inhibitors also block K channels in cerebrovascular smooth muscle and that arginine, the "antidote" to the NOS inhibitors keeps the channels open. This latter work must force a reexamination of the conclusions reached in many studies.
- Nitric oxide