The effects of Mg2+ were studied in human umbilical arteries, stem villous arteries and maternal intramyometrial arteries. The vessels were dissected and mounted in organ baths, and isometric tension was recorded. In all fetal preparations investigated, Mg2+(0.5–6.0 mM) in a concentration-related way decreased pD2 values for prostaglandin F2α responses. The maximum response to prostaglandin F2a was depressed in umbilical arteries, but remained unaffected in stem villous artery preparations. In stem villous arteries pretreated in Ca2+-free medium, increasing concentrations of Mg2+ markedly depressed the response to Ca2+ after stimulation with K+ or prostaglandin F2α suggesting that Mg2+ inhibited transmembrane calcium influx and interfered with intracellular calcium effects. In both stem villous and intramyometrial arteries, increasing concentrations of Mg2+ increased EC50 values for responses to K+, whereas Emax values were unaffected. Mg2+ produced relaxation of agonist-induced contractions by up to 60% in stem villous arteries and up to 40% in intramyometrial artery preparations. The relaxant effect of Mg2+ did not seem to be mediated through the endothelium or through changes in the synthesis of prostanoids, since endothelial disruption and treatment with indomethacin left the responses to Mg2+ unaffected.
Relaxation of vessels important for resistance regulation in the human uteroplacental vascular bed may be of benefit when uteroplacental blood flow is impaired, and the present results support the established use of magnesium sulphate in the treatment of pre-eclampsia.