Does nitric oxide contribute to the basal vasodilation of pregnancy in conscious rabbits?

V. L. Brooks, K. A. Clow, L. S. Welch, G. D. Giraud

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


Pregnancy produces marked systemic vasodilation, but the mechanism is unknown. Experiments were performed in conscious rabbits to test the hypotheses that increased nitric oxide (NO) production contributes to the increased vascular conductance, but that the contribution varies among vascular beds. Rabbits were instrumented with aortic and vena caval catheters and ultrasonic flow probes implanted around the ascending aorta, superior mesenteric artery, terminal aorta, and/or a femoral artery. Hemodynamic responses to intravenous injection of Nω-nitro-L-arginine (L-NA; 20 mg/kg or increasing doses of 2, 5, 10, 15, and 20 mg/kg) were determined in rabbits first before pregnancy (NP) and then at the end of gestation (P). L-NA produced similar increases in arterial pressure between groups, but the following responses were larger (P < 0.05) when the rabbits were pregnant: 1) decreases in total peripheral conductance [-3.7 ± 0.3 (NP), -5.0 ± 0.5 (P) ml·min-1·mmHg-1], 2) decreases in mesenteric conductance [-0.47 ± 0.05 (NP), -0.63 ± 0.07 (P) ml·min-1·mmHg-1], 3) decreases in terminal aortic conductance [-0.43 ± 0.05 (NP), -0.95 ± 0,19 ml·min-1·mmHg-1 (P)], and 4) decreases in heart rate [-41 ± 4 (NP), -62 ± 5 beats/min (P)]. Nevertheless, total peripheral and terminal aortic conductances remained elevated in the pregnant rabbits (P < 0.05) after L-NA. Furthermore, decreases in cardiac output and femoral conductance were not different between the reproductive states. We conclude that the contribution of NO to vascular tone increases during pregnancy, but only in some vascular beds. Moreover, the data support a role for NO in the pregnancy-induced increase in basal heart rate. Finally, unknown factors in addition to NO must also underlie the basal vasodilation observed during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)R1624-R1632
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Regulatory Integrative and Comparative Physiology
Issue number5 50-5
StatePublished - 2001


  • Arterial pressure
  • Cardiac output
  • Conductance
  • Femoral flow
  • Heart rate
  • Mesenteric flow
  • Terminal aortic flow
  • Total peripheral resistance

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Physiology (medical)


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