Inhibition of the production of nitric oxide and vasodilator prostaglandins attenuates the cardiovascular response to bacterial endotoxin in adrenalectomized rats

C. Szabo, C. Thiemermann, J. R. Vane

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    28 Scopus citations


    Bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS) is the toxic moiety of the gram-negative bacterial outer membrane which is responsible for many of the pathophysiological events that occur during endotoxic shock. Here we investigate the hypothesis that endogenous glucocorticoids modulate the formation of nitric oxide (NO) and of vasodilator cyclooxygenase metabolites in response to LPS. Intravenous administration of a small dose of Escherichia coli LPS (0.1 mg kg-1) to normal Wistar rats caused a moderate fall in blood pressure, and 120 min of endotoxaemia was not associated with an attenuation of the rise in blood pressure elicited by intravenous injection of noradrenaline (NA; vascular hyporeactivity). When adrenalectomized (ADX) rats, which lack endogenous glucocorticoids, were subjected to the same dose of LPS, they developed a much more severe form of circulatory shock, which was characterized by a profound fall in blood pressure and a vascular hyporeactivity to NA. Both hypotension and vascular hyporeactivity were prevented by pre-treatment with dexamethasone. Inhibition of NO biosynthesis with N(G)-methyl-L-arginine significantly attenuated the hypotension and the vascular hyporeactivity to NA caused by LPS in ADX rats. Similarly, the cyclooxygenase inhibitor indomethacin significantly attenuated the circulatory failure elicited by LPS in the ADX rats. Interestingly, 120 min of endotoxaemia resulted in a de novo biosynthesis of an induced isoform of NO synthase in the lungs of ADX, but not normal Wistar, rats. This induction of NO synthase was prevented by dexamethasone pre-treatment. We conclude that the severe, delayed circulatory failure (hypotension and vascular hyporeactivity to NA) seen in ADX rats subjected to LPS is mediated by an enhanced formation of NO and vasodilator cyclooxygenase metabolites, presumably prostacyclin. These findings support the hypothesis that endogenous glucocorticoids ameliorate the induction of NO synthase and cyclooxygenase in response to inflammatory stimuli such as cytokines or endotoxin.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)233-238
    Number of pages6
    JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
    Issue number1338
    StatePublished - Jan 1 1993


    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
    • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
    • Environmental Science(all)
    • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)

    Cite this