Nitric oxide synthase is expressed in the sino-atrial node and animal data suggests a direct role for nitric oxide on pacemaker activity. Study of this mechanism in intact humans is complicated by both reflex and direct effects of nitric oxide on cardiac autonomic control. Thus, we have studied the direct effects of nitric oxide on heart rate in human cardiac transplant recipients who possess a denervated donor heart. In nine patients, the chronotropic effects of systemic injection of the nitric oxide synthase inhibitor N(G)-monomethyl-L-arginine (L-NMMA) (3 mg kg(-1)) or increasing bolus doses of the nitric oxide donor, sodium nitroprusside (SNP), were studied. Injection of L-NMMA increased mean arterial pressure by 17 +/- 2 mmHg (mean +/- S.E.M.; P <0.001) and also had a significant negative chronotropic effect, lengthening the R-R interval by 54 +/- 8 ms (P <0.001). This bradycardia was not reflex in origin since injection of the non-NO-dependent vasoconstrictor, phenylephrine (100 microg) achieved a similar rise in mean arterial pressure (18 +/- 3 mmHg; P <0.001) but failed to change R-R interval duration (Delta R-R = -3 +/- 4 ms). Furthermore, no change in levels of circulating adrenaline was observed with L-NMMA. Conversely, injection of sodium nitroprusside resulted in a positive chronotropic effect with a dose-dependent shortening of R-R interval duration, peak Delta R-R = -25 +/- 8 ms with 130 microg (P <0.01). These findings indicate that nitric oxide exerts a tonic, direct, positive chronotropic influence on the denervated human heart. This is consistent with the results of animal experiments showing that nitric oxide exerts a facilitatory influence on pacemaking currents in the sino-atrial node.
|Number of pages||7|
|Journal||The Journal of Physiology|
|Issue number||Pt 2|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Jun 2002|