• acetylcholine;
  • artery;
  • endothelium-derived relaxing factor (EDRF);
  • guanosine 3′,5′-cyclic monophosphate;
  • membrane potential;
  • noradrenaline;
  • oscillations;
  • rat;
  • vasomotion

Small arteries of the mesenteric arcade from Wistar rats display rhythmic oscillations superimposed on the tonic contractile response when exposed to submaximal doses of noradrenaline. We have previously shown that mechanical removal of the endothelium abolishes these oscillations. In the present study different methods to eliminate or modify the influence of the endothelium were used in order to further characterize the mechanisms behind rhythmic contractions in these vessels.

Endothelium was removed either mechanically or chemically by perfusing the vessels with 0.3% CHAPS. The absence of functional endothelium enhanced noradrenaline sensitivity and simultaneously abolished oscillations in tension and membrane potential, but did not affect resting membrane potential. The rhythmic activity was also reduced or abolished by exposure to haemoglobin, methylene blue, LY83583 or l-NNA. Indomethacin and propranolol were without effect. Sodium nitroprusside or the permeant analogue of cyclic GMP, 8-bromo cyclic GMP, restored rhythmic activity in precontracted endothelium-denuded vessels. The data suggest that release of nitric oxide from the endothelium, and subsequent generation of cyclic GMP in the smooth muscle, activates oscillations in membrane potential and tension; the oscillator itself appears to be located within the smooth muscle cells.