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BACKGROUND AND AIMS: Patients with advanced cirrhosis have systemic vasodilatation and increased nitric oxide (NO) production despite activated vasopressor systems, including the endothelin system. The aims of this study were to assess the contribution of endogenous endothelin 1 (ET-1) and NO to the maintenance of basal forearm vascular tone in patients with preascitic cirrhosis (n=7) and in age and sex matched healthy controls (n=7). METHODS: Using venous occlusion plethysmography, forearm blood flow (FBF) responses to subsystemic locally active intra-arterial infusion of BQ-123 (a selective endothelin type A receptor (ET(A)) receptor antagonist; 10 nmol/min) were measured before and during application of an "NO clamp": a balanced co-infusion of L-N(G)-monomethyl-arginine (a selective NO synthase inhibitor) and sodium nitroprusside (an exogenous NO donor) to block endogenous NO production and restore NO mediated basal FBF, respectively. RESULTS: L-NMMA infusion produced a reduction in FBF (p<0.001) which was similar in both groups. Before applying the "NO clamp", BQ-123 caused an increase in FBF in both groups (p<0.001) that was greater in patients with cirrhosis (p<0.01). During the "NO clamp", BQ-123 induced vasodilatation was abolished in controls and attenuated in patients (p<0.001) but remained significantly greater in patients with cirrhosis (p<0.01). CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate a greater ET(A) mediated contribution of endogenous ET-1 to the maintenance of basal forearm vascular tone in patients with preascitic cirrhosis. In addition, enhanced vasodilatation to ET(A) receptor antagonism in cirrhosis cannot be entirely attributed to NO release but is likely to be related to reversal of direct ET-1 mediated tone.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





410 - 415


Adult, Case-Control Studies, Endothelin Receptor Antagonists, Endothelin-1, Enzyme Inhibitors, Female, Forearm, Hemodynamics, Humans, Liver Cirrhosis, Male, Middle Aged, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase, Peptides, Cyclic, Plethysmography, Regional Blood Flow, Vasodilation, omega-N-Methylarginine