Journal of Physiology

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Glucocorticoids and renal Na+ transport: implications for hypertension and salt sensitivity

15 April 2014

The clinical manifestations of glucocorticoid excess include central obesity, hyperglycaemia, dyslipidaemia, electrolyte abnormalities and hypertension. A century on from Cushing's original case study, these cardinal features are prevalent in industrialized nations. Hypertension is the major modifiable risk factor for cardiovascular and renal disease and reflects underlying abnormalities of Na+ homeostasis. Aldosterone is a master regulator of renal Na+ transport but here we argue that glucocorticoids are also influential, particularly during moderate excess. The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis can affect renal Na+ homeostasis on multiple levels, systemically by increasing mineralocorticoid synthesis and locally by actions on both the mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid receptors, both of which are expressed in the kidney. The kidney also expresses both of the 11β-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase (11βHSD) enzymes. The intrarenal generation of active glucocorticoid by 11βHSD1 stimulates Na+ reabsorption; failure to downregulate the enzyme during adaption to high dietary salt causes salt-sensitive hypertension. The deactivation of glucocorticoid by 11βHSD2 underpins the regulatory dominance for Na+ transport of mineralocorticoids and defines the ‘aldosterone-sensitive distal nephron’. In summary, glucocorticoids can stimulate renal transport processes conventionally attributed to the renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system. Importantly, Na+ and volume homeostasis do not exert negative feedback on the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis. These actions are therefore clinically relevant and may contribute to the pathogenesis of hypertension in conditions associated with elevated glucocorticoid levels, such as the metabolic syndrome and chronic stress.

Intrinsic vascular dopamine - a key modulator of hypoxia-induced vasodilatation in splanchnic vessels

15 April 2014

Dopamine not only is a precursor of the catecholamines noradrenaline and adrenaline but also serves as an independent neurotransmitter and paracrine hormone. It plays an important role in the pathogenesis of hypertension and is a potent vasodilator in many mammalian systemic arteries, strongly suggesting an endogenous source of dopamine in the vascular wall. Here we demonstrated dopamine, noradrenaline and adrenaline in rat aorta and superior mesenteric arteries (SMA) by radioimmunoassay. Chemical sympathectomy with 6-hydroxydopamine showed a significant reduction of noradrenaline and adrenaline, while dopamine levels remained unaffected. Isolated endothelial cells were able to synthesize and release dopamine upon cAMP stimulation. Consistent with these data, mRNAs coding for catecholamine synthesizing enzymes, i.e. tyrosine hydroxylase (TH), aromatic l-amino acid decarboxylase, and dopamine-β-hydroxylase were detected by RT-PCR in cultured endothelial cells from SMA. TH protein was detected by immunohistochemisty and Western blot. Exposure of endothelial cells to hypoxia (1% O2) increased TH mRNA. Vascular smooth muscle cells partially expressed catecholaminergic traits. A physiological role of endogenous vascular dopamine was shown in SMA, where D1 dopamine receptor blockade abrogated hypoxic vasodilatation. Experiments on SMA with endothelial denudation revealed a significant contribution of the endothelium, although subendothelial dopamine release dominated. From these results we conclude that endothelial cells and cells of the underlying vascular wall synthesize and release dopamine in an oxygen-regulated manner. In the splanchnic vasculature, this intrinsic non-neuronal dopamine is the dominating vasodilator released upon lowering of oxygen tension.

Reduced contribution of endothelin to the regulation of systemic and pulmonary vascular tone in severe familial hypercholesterolaemia

15 April 2014

Vascular dysfunction has been associated with familial hypercholesterolaemia (FH), a severe form of hyperlipidaemia. We recently demonstrated that swine with FH exhibit reduced exercise-induced systemic, but not pulmonary, vasodilatation involving reduced nitric oxide (NO) bioavailability. Since NO normally limits endothelin (ET) action, we examined the hypothesis that reduced systemic vasodilatation during exercise in FH swine results from increased ET-mediated vasoconstriction. Systemic and pulmonary vascular responses to exercise were examined in chronically instrumented normal and FH swine in the absence and presence of the ETA/B receptor antagonist tezosentan. Intrinsic reactivity to ET was further assessed in skeletal muscle arterioles. FH swine exhibited ~9-fold elevation in total plasma cholesterol versus normal swine. Similar to our recent findings, systemic, not pulmonary, vasodilatation during exercise was reduced in FH swine. Blockade of ET receptors caused marked systemic vasodilatation at rest and during exercise in normal swine that was significantly reduced in FH swine. The reduced role of ET in FH swine in vivo was not the result of decreased arteriolar ET responsiveness, as responsiveness was increased in isolated arterioles. Smooth muscle ET receptor protein content was unaltered by FH. However, circulating plasma ET levels were reduced in FH swine. ET receptor antagonism caused pulmonary vasodilatation at rest and during exercise in normal, but not FH, swine. Therefore, contrary to our hypothesis, FH swine exhibit a generalised reduction in the role of ET in regulating vascular tone in vivo probably resulting from reduced ET production. This may represent a unique vascular consequence of severe familial hypercholesterolaemia.

Passive hind-limb cycling improves cardiac function and reduces cardiovascular disease risk in experimental spinal cord injury

15 April 2014

Spinal cord injury (SCI) causes altered autonomic control and severe physical deconditioning that converge to drive maladaptive cardiac remodelling. We used a clinically relevant experimental model to investigate the cardio-metabolic responses to SCI and to establish whether passive hind-limb cycling elicits a cardio-protective effect. Initially, 21 male Wistar rats were evenly assigned to three groups: uninjured control (CON), T3 complete SCI (SCI) or T3 complete SCI plus passive hind-limb cycling (SCI-EX; 2 x 30 min day–1, 5 days week–1 for 4 weeks beginning 6 days post-SCI). On day 32, cardio-metabolic function was assessed using in vivo echocardiography, ex vivo working heart assessments, cardiac histology/molecular biology and blood lipid profiles. Twelve additional rats (n = 6 SCI and n = 6 SCI-EX) underwent in vivo echocardiography and basal haemodynamic assessments pre-SCI and at days 7, 14 and 32 post-SCI to track temporal cardiovascular changes. Compared with CON, SCI exhibited a rapid and sustained reduction in left ventricular dimensions and function that ultimately manifested as reduced contractility, increased myocardial collagen deposition and an up-regulation of transforming growth factor beta-1 (TGFβ1) and mothers against decapentaplegic homolog 3 (Smad3) mRNA. For SCI-EX, the initial reduction in left ventricular dimensions and function at day 7 post-SCI was completely reversed by day 32 post-SCI, and there were no differences in myocardial contractility between SCI-EX and CON. Collagen deposition was similar between SCI-EX and CON. TGFβ1 and Smad3 were down-regulated in SCI-EX. Blood lipid profiles were improved in SCI-EX versus SCI. We provide compelling novel evidence that passive hind-limb cycling prevents cardiac dysfunction and reduces cardiovascular disease risk in experimental SCI.

Role of nitrite in regulation of fetal cephalic circulation in sheep

15 April 2014

Nitrite has been postulated to provide a reservoir for conversion to nitric oxide (NO), especially in tissues with reduced oxygen levels as in the fetus. Nitrite would thus provide local vasodilatation and restore a balance between oxygen supply and need, a putative mechanism of importance especially in the brain. The current experiments test the hypothesis that exogenous nitrite acts as a vasodilator in the cephalic vasculature of the intact, near term fetal sheep. Fetuses were first instrumented to measure arterial blood pressure and carotid artery blood flow and then studied 4–5 days later while in utero without anaesthesia. Initially l-nitro-arginine (LNNA) was given to block endogenous NO production. Carotid resistance to flow increased 2-fold from 0.54 ± 0.01 (SEM) to 1.20 ± 0.08 mmHg min ml–1 (in 13 fetuses, P < 0.001), indicating NO tonically reduces cerebral vascular tone. Sodium nitrite (or saline as control) was then infused in increasing step-doses from 0.01 to 33 μm in half-log increments over a period of 2 h. Carotid artery pressure, blood flow and vascular resistance did not change compared to fetuses receiving saline, even at plasma nitrite concentrations two orders of magnitude above the physiological range. The results indicate that while cephalic vascular tone is controlled by endogenous nitric oxide synthase activity, exogenously administered nitrite is not a vasodilator at physiological concentrations in the vasculature served by the carotid artery of fetal sheep.

Dietary pre-exposure of rats to fish oil does not enhance myocardial efficiency of isolated working hearts or their left ventricular trabeculae

15 April 2014

Numerous epidemiological studies, supported by clinical and experimental findings, have suggested beneficial effects of dietary fish or fish oil supplementation on cardiovascular health. One such experimental study showed a profound (100%) increase in myocardial efficiency (i.e. the ratio of work output to metabolic energy input) of the isolated whole heart, achieved by a corresponding decrease in the rate of myocardial oxygen consumption. However, a number of other investigations have returned null results on the latter energetic index. Such conflicting findings have motivated us to undertake a re-examination. To that effect, we investigated the effects of dietary fatty acid supplementation on myocardial mechano-energetics, with our primary focus on cardiac efficiency. We used both isolated hearts and isolated left ventricular trabeculae of rats fed with one of three distinct diets: reference (REF), fish oil-supplemented (FO) or saturated fat-supplemented (SFA). For all three groups, and at both spatial levels, we supplied 10 mm glucose as the exogenous metabolic substrate. In the working heart experiments, we found no difference in the average mechanical efficiency among the three dietary groups: 14.8 ± 1.1% (REF), 13.9 ± 0.6% (FO) and 13.6 ± 0.7% (SFA). Likewise, we observed no difference in peak mechanical efficiency of left ventricular trabeculae among the REF, FO and SFA groups: 13.3 ± 1.4, 11.2 ± 2.2 and 12.5 ± 1.5%, respectively. We conclude that there is no effect of a period of pre-exposure to a diet supplemented with either fish oil or saturated fatty acids on the efficiency of the myocardium at either spatial level: tissue or whole heart.

Shank2 mutant mice display a hypersecretory response to cholera toxin

15 April 2014

Shank2 is a PDZ (PSD-95/discs large/ZO-1)-based adaptor that has been suggested to regulate membrane transporting proteins in the brain and epithelial tissues. Here, we report that Shank2 mutant (Shank2–/–) mice exhibit aberrant fluid and ion transport in the intestine. Molecular characterization using epithelial tissues from Shank2+/+ and Shank2–/– mice revealed that a long spliceoform of Shank2 (Shank2E) is predominantly expressed in the pancreatic, renal and intestinal epithelia. In functional assays, deletion of Shank2 increased the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR)-dependent short-circuit currents by 84% (< 0.05) and 101% (P < 0.05) in the mouse colon and rectum, respectively. Disruption of the CFTR–Shank2–phosphodiesterase 4D protein complex appeared to be mostly responsible for the changes in CFTR activities. Notably, Shank2 deletion profoundly increased cholera toxin-induced fluid accumulation in the mouse intestine (~90%, < 0.01). Analyses with chemical inhibitors confirmed that the hyperactivation of CFTR channel function is responsible for the increased response to cholera toxin. These results suggest that Shank2 is a key molecule that participates in epithelial homeostasis, in particular to prevent overt secretory responses caused by epithelial pathogens.

GABAergic and glycinergic inputs modulate rhythmogenic mechanisms in the lamprey respiratory network

15 April 2014

We have previously shown that GABA and glycine modulate respiratory activity in the in vitro brainstem preparations of the lamprey and that blockade of GABAA and glycine receptors restores the respiratory rhythm during apnoea caused by blockade of ionotropic glutamate receptors. However, the neural substrates involved in these effects are unknown. To address this issue, the role of GABAA, GABAB and glycine receptors within the paratrigeminal respiratory group (pTRG), the proposed respiratory central pattern generator, and the vagal motoneuron region was investigated both during apnoea induced by blockade of glutamatergic transmission and under basal conditions through microinjections of specific antagonists. The removal of GABAergic, but not glycinergic transmission within the pTRG, causes the resumption of rhythmic respiratory activity during apnoea, and reveals the presence of a modulatory control of the pTRG under basal conditions. A blockade of GABAA and glycine receptors within the vagal region strongly increases the respiratory frequency through disinhibition of neurons projecting to the pTRG from the vagal region. These neurons were retrogradely labelled (neurobiotin) from the pTRG. Intense GABA immunoreactivity is observed both within the pTRG and the vagal area, which corroborates present findings. The results confirm the pTRG as a primary site of respiratory rhythm generation, and suggest that inhibition modulates the activity of rhythm-generating neurons, without any direct role in burst formation and termination mechanisms.

Glutamate receptors in the nucleus tractus solitarius contribute to ventilatory acclimatization to hypoxia in rat

15 April 2014

When exposed to a hypoxic environment the body's first response is a reflex increase in ventilation, termed the hypoxic ventilatory response (HVR). With chronic sustained hypoxia (CSH), such as during acclimatization to high altitude, an additional time-dependent increase in ventilation occurs, which increases the HVR. This secondary increase persists after exposure to CSH and involves plasticity within the circuits in the central nervous system that control breathing. Currently these mechanisms of HVR plasticity are unknown and we hypothesized that they involve glutamatergic synapses in the nucleus tractus solitarius (NTS), where afferent endings from arterial chemoreceptors terminate. To test this, we treated rats held in normoxia (CON) or 10% O2 (CSH) for 7 days and measured ventilation in conscious, unrestrained animals before and after microinjecting glutamate receptor agonists and antagonists into the NTS. In normoxia, AMPA increased ventilation 25% and 50% in CON and CSH, respectively, while NMDA doubled ventilation in both groups (P < 0.05). Specific AMPA and NMDA receptor antagonists (NBQX and MK801, respectively) abolished these effects. MK801 significantly decreased the HVR in CON rats, and completely blocked the acute HVR in CSH rats but had no effect on ventilation in normoxia. NBQX decreased ventilation whenever it was increased relative to normoxic controls; i.e. acute hypoxia in CON and CSH, and normoxia in CSH. These results support our hypothesis that glutamate receptors in the NTS contribute to plasticity in the HVR with CSH. The mechanism underlying this synaptic plasticity is probably glutamate receptor modification, as in CSH rats the expression of phosphorylated NR1 and GluR1 proteins in the NTS increased 35% and 70%, respectively, relative to that in CON rats.

Slowed muscle oxygen uptake kinetics with raised metabolism are not dependent on blood flow or recruitment dynamics

15 April 2014

Oxygen uptake kinetics (VO2) are slowed when exercise is initiated from a raised metabolic rate. Whether this reflects the recruitment of muscle fibres differing in oxidative capacity, or slowed blood flow (Q) kinetics is unclear. This study determined VO2 in canine muscle in situ, with experimental control over muscle activation and Q during contractions initiated from rest and a raised metabolic rate. The gastrocnemius complex of nine anaesthetised, ventilated dogs was isolated and attached to a force transducer. Isometric tetanic contractions (50 Hz; 200 ms duration) via supramaximal sciatic nerve stimulation were used to manipulate metabolic rate: 3 min stimulation at 0.33 Hz (S1), followed by 3 min at 0.67 Hz (S2). Circulation was initially intact (SPON), and subsequently isolated for pump-perfusion (PUMP) above the greatest value in SPON. Muscle VO2 was determined contraction-by-contraction using an ultrasonic flowmeter and venous oximeter, and normalised to tension-time integral (TTI). VO2/TTI and Q were less in S1SPON (mean ± s.d.: 13 ± 3 s and 12 ± 4 s, respectively) than in S2SPON (29 ± 19 s and 31 ± 13 s, respectively; P < 0.05). VO2/TTI was unchanged by pump-perfusion (S1PUMP, 12 ± 4 s; S2PUMP, 24 ± 6 s; P < 0.001) despite increased O2 delivery; at S2 onset, venous O2 saturation was 21 ± 4% and 65 ± 5% in SPON and PUMP, respectively. VO2 kinetics remained slowed when contractions were initiated from a raised metabolic rate despite uniform muscle stimulation and increased O2 delivery. The intracellular mechanism may relate to a falling energy state, approaching saturating ADP concentration, and/or slowed mitochondrial activation; but further study is required. These data add to the evidence that muscle VO2 control is more complex than previously suggested.

Exercise training, but not resveratrol, improves metabolic and inflammatory status in skeletal muscle of aged men

15 April 2014

The aim was to investigate the metabolic and anti-inflammatory effects of resveratrol alone and when combined with exercise training in skeletal muscle of aged human subjects. Healthy, physically inactive men (60–72 years old) were randomized to either 8 weeks of daily intake of 250 mg resveratrol or placebo or to 8 weeks of high-intensity exercise training with 250 mg resveratrol or placebo. Before and after the interventions, resting blood samples and muscle biopsies were obtained and a one-legged knee-extensor endurance exercise test was performed. Exercise training increased skeletal muscle peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor- co-activator-1α mRNA ~1.5-fold, cytochrome c protein ~1.3-fold, cytochrome c oxidase I protein ~1.5-fold, citrate synthase activity ~1.3-fold, 3-hydroxyacyl-CoA dehydrogenase activity ~1.3-fold, inhibitor of B-α and inhibitor of B-β protein content ~1.3-fold and time to exhaustion in the one-legged knee-extensor endurance exercise test by ~1.2-fold, with no significant additive or adverse effects of resveratrol on these parameters. Despite an overall ~25% reduction in total acetylation level in skeletal muscle with resveratrol, no exclusive resveratrol-mediated metabolic effects were observed on the investigated parameters. Notably, however, resveratrol blunted an exercise training-induced decrease (~20%) in protein carbonylation and decrease (~40%) in tumour necrosis factor α mRNA content in skeletal muscle. In conclusion, resveratrol did not elicit metabolic improvements in healthy aged subjects; in fact, resveratrol even impaired the observed exercise training-induced improvements in markers of oxidative stress and inflammation in skeletal muscle. Collectively, this highlights the metabolic efficacy of exercise training in aged subjects and does not support the contention that resveratrol is a potential exercise mimetic in healthy aged subjects.

Vitamin C and E supplementation hampers cellular adaptation to endurance training in humans: a double-blind, randomised, controlled trial

15 April 2014

In this double-blind, randomised, controlled trial, we investigated the effects of vitamin C and E supplementation on endurance training adaptations in humans. Fifty-four young men and women were randomly allocated to receive either 1000 mg of vitamin C and 235 mg of vitamin E or a placebo daily for 11 weeks. During supplementation, the participants completed an endurance training programme consisting of three to four sessions per week (primarily of running), divided into high-intensity interval sessions [4–6 x 4–6 min; >90% of maximal heart rate (HRmax)] and steady state continuous sessions (30–60 min; 70–90% of HRmax). Maximal oxygen uptake (VO2 max ), submaximal running and a 20 m shuttle run test were assessed and blood samples and muscle biopsies were collected, before and after the intervention. Participants in the vitamin C and E group increased their VO2 max (mean ± s.d.: 8 ± 5%) and performance in the 20 m shuttle test (10 ± 11%) to the same degree as those in the placebo group (mean ± s.d.: 8 ± 5% and 14 ± 17%, respectively). However, the mitochondrial marker cytochrome c oxidase subunit IV (COX4) and cytosolic peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor- coactivator 1 α (PGC-1α) increased in the m. vastus lateralis in the placebo group by 59 ± 97% and 19 ± 51%, respectively, but not in the vitamin C and E group (COX4: –13 ± 54%; PGC-1α: –13 ± 29%; P ≤ 0.03, between groups). Furthermore, mRNA levels of CDC42 and mitogen-activated protein kinase 1 (MAPK1) in the trained muscle were lower in the vitamin C and E group than in the placebo group (≤ 0.05). Daily vitamin C and E supplementation attenuated increases in markers of mitochondrial biogenesis following endurance training. However, no clear interactions were detected for improvements in VO2 max and running performance. Consequently, vitamin C and E supplementation hampered cellular adaptations in the exercised muscles, and although this did not translate to the performance tests applied in this study, we advocate caution when considering antioxidant supplementation combined with endurance exercise.

Following the ontogeny of retinal waves: pan-retinal recordings of population dynamics in the neonatal mouse

01 April 2014

The immature retina generates spontaneous waves of spiking activity that sweep across the ganglion cell layer during a limited period of development before the onset of visual experience. The spatiotemporal patterns encoded in the waves are believed to be instructive for the wiring of functional connections throughout the visual system. However, the ontogeny of retinal waves is still poorly documented as a result of the relatively low resolution of conventional recording techniques. Here, we characterize the spatiotemporal features of mouse retinal waves from birth until eye opening in unprecedented detail using a large-scale, dense, 4096-channel multielectrode array that allowed us to record from the entire neonatal retina at near cellular resolution. We found that early cholinergic waves propagate with random trajectories over large areas with low ganglion cell recruitment. They become slower, smaller and denser when GABAA signalling matures, as occurs beyond postnatal day (P) 7. Glutamatergic influences dominate from P10, coinciding with profound changes in activity dynamics. At this time, waves cease to be random and begin to show repetitive trajectories confined to a few localized hotspots. These hotspots gradually tile the retina with time, and disappear after eye opening. Our observations demonstrate that retinal waves undergo major spatiotemporal changes during ontogeny. Our results support the hypotheses that cholinergic waves guide the refinement of retinal targets and that glutamatergic waves may also support the wiring of retinal receptive fields.