Sympathovagal interplay in the control of overall blood pressure variability in unanesthetized rats

Alberto U. Ferrari, Cristina Franzelli, Anna Daffonchio, Stefano Perlini, Marco Dirienzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The role of sympathetic and parasympathetic influences in the control of overall blood pressure variability was studied in chronically instrumented, freely behaving Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY) and spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) subjected to sympathectomy by 6-hydroxydopamine (100 μg/kg ip) twice in 1 wk (effectiveness verified by abolition of pressor and tachycardic response to tyramine, 150 mg/kg iv) and/or to cholinergic blockade by atropine (0.7 mg/kg iv). Overall heart rate and blood pressure variabilities were measured as variation coefficients computed beat to beat on 90-min blood pressure recordings. As compared with the vehicle-treated controls, sympathectomized rats had much larger blood pressure variability (WKY, +61%, SHR, +86%, both P <0.01). Cholinergic blockade superimposed to sympathectomy caused heart rate variability to markedly fall and the already augmented blood pressure variability to further rise 47% in WKY and 28% in SHR (both P <0.01). Prolonged observation of the animals revealed the systematic occurrence of rapid blood pressure falls occurring at the onset of locomotor activity, accounting for a substantial fraction of the sympathectomy-related increase in blood pressure variability. It is concluded that 1) under undisturbed daily life conditions, sympathetic influences oppose blood pressure variations, presumably by adjusting their vasoconstrictor influences to compensate for the metabolic vasodilation occurring in functionally active tissues; 2) when sympathetic vascular control is lost, vagally mediated heart rate variations oppose the rise in blood pressure variability, possibly via rapid changes in cardiac output that partly offset the fluctuations in total peripheral resistance; and 3) chronic hypertension fails to alter these cardiovascular regulatory mechanisms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Heart and Circulatory Physiology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 1996


  • 6-hydroxydopamine
  • Cholinergic blockade
  • Heart rate variability
  • Hypertension
  • Spontaneously hypertensive rats
  • Sympathectomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology


Dive into the research topics of 'Sympathovagal interplay in the control of overall blood pressure variability in unanesthetized rats'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this