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Keywords:

  • horse;
  • laminitis;
  • endothelin

Summary

Biosynthesis of endothelin-1 (ET-1), the most potent endogenous vasoconstrictor yet identified, is increased following myocardial infarction (MI) in man. Pathological events which occur in the connective tissues of the equine hoof during laminitis are similar in some respects, to changes occurring in the myocardial connective tissues following MI in man. The objective of this study was to determine whether ET-1 expression in connective tissues obtained from the hoof of laminitic horses is increased compared with tissues obtained from healthy horses. Expression of ET-1 in connective tissues of the equine hoof was measured following tissue extraction from 3 groups of horses: horses in which acute laminitis had been induced by the administration of starch; chronically foundered horses; nonlaminitic horses. The concentration of ET-1 in laminar connective tissues obtained from all laminitic horses (1573.0 ± 392.8 pg/g of tissue; n = 10) was increased when compared with tissues obtained from nonlaminitic horses (392.5 ± 117.4 pg/g of tissue; n = 5) (P<0.05). The concentration of ET-1 in laminar connective tissues obtained from the experimentally induced, acute laminitic horses (1043.6 ± 254.4 pg/g of tissue; n = 7) and from the spontaneously affected, chronic laminitic horses (2808.3 ± 878.6 pg/g of tissue; n = 3) was increased compared with the control group (P<0.05, P<0.01, respectively). The concentration of ET-1 in laminar connective tissues obtained from the chronic laminitic horses was greater than that of the experimentally induced, acute laminitic group (P<0.05). It is suggested that the data provide a strong argument that increased ET-1 expression in the connective tissues of the equine hoof represent a potentially important and hitherto unrecognised component of the pathophysiology of equine laminitis. Further studies are needed to determine whether inhibitors of ET-1 converting enzyme or antagonists of ET-1 receptors might be useful in the treatment and prevention of laminitis in horses.