Mechanisms responsible for sympathetic activation by cigarette smoking in humans

Guido Grassi, Gino Seravalle, David A. Calhoun, Gianni B. Bolla, Cristina Giannattasio, Monica Marabini, Alberto Del Bo, Giuseppe Mancia

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The pressor and tachycardic effects of cigarette smoking are associated with an increase in plasma catecholamines, suggesting the dependence of these effects on adrenergic stimulation. Whether the stimulation occurs at a central or a peripheral level and whether reflex mechanisms are involved is unknown. Methods and Results: In nine normotensive healthy subjects (age, 33.0±3.5 years, mean±SEM), we measured blood pressure (Finapres device), heart rate (ECG), calf blood flow and vascular resistance (venous occlusion plethysmography), plasma norepinephrine and epinephrine (high-performance liquid chromatography assay), and postganglionic muscle sympathetic nerve activity (microneurography from the peroneal nerve) while subjects were smoking a filter cigarette (nicotine content, 1.1 mg) or were in control condition. Cigarette smoking (which raised plasma nicotine measured by high-performance liquid chromatography from 1.0±0.9 to 44.2±7.1 ng/mL) markedly and significantly increased mean arterial pressure (+13.2±2.3%), heart rate (+30.3±4.7%), calf vascular resistance (+12.1±4.9%), plasma norepinephrine (+34.8±7.0%), and plasma epinephrine (+90.5±39.0%). In contrast, muscle sympathetic nerve activity showed a marked reduction (integrated activity -31.8±5.1%, P

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)248-253
Number of pages6
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1994


  • baroreflex
  • blood pressure
  • nervous system
  • smoking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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