Role of nitric oxide synthase inhibition in the acute hypertensive response to intracerebroventricular cadmium

Maria Piera Demontis, Maria Vittoria Varoni, Anna Rita Volpe, Costanza Emanueli, Paolo Madeddu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


1. In the rat, intracerebroventricular (i.c.v.) injection of cadmium, a pollutant with long biological half-life, causes a sustained increase in blood pressure at doses that are ineffective by peripheral route. Since cadmium inhibits calcium-calmodulin constitutive nitric oxide (NO) synthase in cytosolic preparations of rat brain, this mechanism may be responsible for the acute pressor action of this heavy metal. 2. To test this possibility, we evaluated the effect of i.c.v. injection of 88 nmol cadmium in normotensive unanaesthetized Wistar rats, which were i.c.v. pre-treated with: (1) saline (control), (2) L-arginine (L-Arg), to increase the availability of substrate for NO biosynthesis, (3) D-arginine (D-Arg), (4) 3-[4-morpholinyl]-sydnonimine-hydrochloride (SIN-1), an NO donor, or (5) CaCl2, a cofactor of brain calcium-calmodulin-dependent cNOS(I). In additional experiments, the levels of L-citrulline (the stable equimolar product derived from enzymatic cleavage of L-Arg by NO synthase) were determined in the brain of vehicle- or cadmium-treated rats. 3. The pressor response to cadmium reached its nadir at 5 min (43 ± 4 mmHg) and lasted over 20 min in controls. L-Citrulline/protein content was reduced from 35 up to 50% in the cerebral cortex, pons, hippocampus, striatus, hypothalamus (P <0.01) of cadmium-treated rats compared with controls. Central injection of N(G) nitro-L-arginine-methylester (L-NAME) also reduced the levels of L-citrulline in the brain. 4. Both the magnitude and duration of the response were attenuated by 1.21 and 2.42 μmol SIN-1 (32 ± 3 and 15 ± 4 mmHg, P <0.05, or 1 μmol CaCl2 (6 ± 4 mmHg, P <0.05). Selectivity of action exerted by SIN-1 was confirmed by the use of another NO donor, S-nitroso-N-acetyl-penicillamine (SNAP). Both L-Arg and D-Arg caused a mild but significant attenuation in the main phase of the pressor response evoked by cadmium. However, only L-Arg reduced the magnitude of the delayed, pressor response. Despite their similarity in ability to attenuate the cadmium-induced pressure effect, L-Arg and its isomer exerted differential biochemical changes in brain L-citrulline, as L-Arg normalized cadmium-induced reduction in L-cirrulline levels, whereas i.c.v. D-Arg did not. 5. We conclude that the pressor effect of i.c.v. cadmium is due, at least in part, to reduced NO formation, consequent to inhibition of brain NO synthase. Accumulation of cadmium in the central nervous system could interfere with central mechanisms (including NO synthase) implicated in the regulation of cardiovascular function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)129-135
Number of pages7
JournalBritish Journal of Pharmacology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1998


  • Blood pressure
  • Calcium
  • Central nervous system
  • Heavy metals
  • Nitric oxide synthase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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