Background Abnormal endothelial function in the lungs is implicated in the development of pulmonary hypertension; however, there is little information about the difference of endothelial function between small distal pulmonary artery (PA) and large proximal PA and their contribution to the development of pulmonary hypertension. Herein, we investigate endothelium-dependent relaxation in different orders of PAs and examine the molecular mechanisms by which chronic hypoxia attenuates endothelium-dependent pulmonary vasodilation, leading to pulmonary hypertension. Methods and Results Endothelium-dependent relaxation in large proximal PAs (second order) was primarily caused by releasing NO from the endothelium, whereas endothelium-dependent hyperpolarization (EDH)-mediated vasodilation was prominent in small distal PAs (fourth-fifth order). Chronic hypoxia abolished EDH-mediated relaxation in small distal PAs without affecting smooth muscle-dependent relaxation. RNA-sequencing data revealed that, among genes related to EDH, the levels of Cx37, Cx40, Cx43, and IK were altered in mouse pulmonary endothelial cells isolated from chronically hypoxic mice in comparison to mouse pulmonary endothelial cells from normoxic control mice. The protein levels were significantly lower for connexin 40 (Cx40) and higher for connexin 37 in mouse pulmonary endothelial cells from hypoxic mice than normoxic mice. Cx40 knockout mice exhibited significant attenuation of EDH-mediated relaxation and marked increase in right ventricular systolic pressure. Interestingly, chronic hypoxia led to a further increase in right ventricular systolic pressure in Cx40 knockout mice without altering EDH-mediated relaxation. Furthermore, overexpression of Cx40 significantly decreased right ventricular systolic pressure in chronically hypoxic mice. Conclusions These data suggest that chronic hypoxia-induced downregulation of endothelial Cx40 results in impaired EDH-mediated relaxation in small distal PAs and contributes to the development of pulmonary hypertension.
- cardiovascular disease
- endothelial cell
- gap junction
- hypoxia‐induced pulmonary hypertension
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine