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Endothelin and endothelin receptor antagonism in portopulmonary hypertension


  • Department of Physiology, University of Munich (W. Neuhofer); Department of Medicine II, University-Hospital of Munich-Grosshadern (V. Gülberg, A.L. Gerbes), Munich, Germany.

Dr Wolfgang Neuhofer, Department of Physiology, University of Munich, Pettenkoferstrasse 12, 80336 Munich, Germany. Tel: +49 89 2180 75203; fax: +49 89 2180 75512; e-mail:


Portopulmonary hypertension (PPHT) is a rare but devastating complication in patients with portal hypertension, characterized by pulmonary arterial obliterative disease with a concomitant rise in pulmonary vascular resistance. A broad body of evidence has accumulated, indicating that endothelin (ET) peptides and their cognate receptors are causally involved in the pathophysiology of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) owing to different aetiologies, including PPHT. In addition, the ET system may be involved in hepatic fibrotic remodelling and portal hypertension. Several experimental models have provided evidence that ET receptor antagonism may have therapeutic potential in PPHT. Initial experience has accumulated during the last 2 years, suggesting that targeting the ET system may have beneficial effects in the clinical setting. In these studies, the orally active, dual ET receptor antagonist bosentan improved pulmonary haemodynamics and functional capacity. These effects were sustained and occurred in the absence of adverse events. If these observations can be corroborated by controlled clinical trials, bosentan would offer several advantages over available therapies, which have major drawbacks owing to their invasive and demanding mode of application.