NO hyperpolarizes pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells and decreases the intracellular Ca2+ concentration by activating voltage-gated K+ channels

Xiao Jian Yuan, Mary L. Tod, Lewis J. Rubin, Mordecai P. Blaustein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

135 Scopus citations


NO causes pulmonary vasodilation in patients with pulmonary hypertension. In pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells, the activity of voltage-gated K+ (Kv) channels controls resting membrane potential. In turn, membrane potential is an important regulator of the intracellular free calcium concentration ([Ca2+]i) and pulmonary vascular tone. We used patch clamp methods to determine whether the NO-induced pulmonary vasodilation is mediated by activation of Kv channels. Quantitative fluorescence microscopy was employed to test the effect of NO on the depolarization-induced rise in [Ca2+]i. Blockade of Kv channels by 4-aminopyridine (5 mM) depolarized pulmonary artery myocytes to threshold for initiation of Ca2+ action potentials, and thereby increased [Ca2+]i. NO (≈3 μM) and the NO-generating compound sodium nitroprusside (5-10 μM) opened Kv channels in rat pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells. The enhanced K+ currents then hyperpolarized the cells, and blocked Ca2+-dependent action potentials, thereby preventing the evoked increases in [Ca2+]i. Nitroprusside also increased the probability of Kv channel opening in excised, outside-out membrane patches. This raises the possibility that NO may act either directly on the channel protein or on a closely associated molecule rather than via soluble guanylate cyclase. In isolated pulmonary arteries, 4-aminopyridine significantly inhibited NO-induced relaxation. We conclude that NO promotes the opening of Kv channels in pulmonary arterial smooth muscle cells. The resulting membrane hyperpolarization, which lowers [Ca2+]i, is apparently one of the mechanisms by which NO induces pulmonary vasodilation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)10489-10494
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number19
StatePublished - Sep 17 1996
Externally publishedYes


  • 4-aminopyridine
  • Membrane potential
  • Nitroprusside
  • Potassium current

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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